It’s one of those all-American, wholesome success stories that can’t help but make us smile. The formidable power of crowd sourcing has been proven yet again this week, as the Kickstarter campaign to fund the expansion of the company behind the classic American children’s programme ‘Reading Rainbow’ exceeded its optimistic $1 million goal in an unprecedented 11 hours. At last count, $1.7 million mark had been surpassed just days into the campaign – with a full 34 days still remaining.
Our American readers will no doubt fondly remember LeVar Burton’s reassuring presence on their TV screens, hosting a show that (perhaps a little counter intuitively, but largely effectively) encouraged them to switch off their sets and head down to their local library. Each episode of the delightfully kooky and colourful ‘Reading Rainbow’ transformed a novel into the adventure it should be, and the show’s success in entertaining and educating garnered hundreds of awards during its lengthy stint on air. The show had a prodigious run spanning generations, airing first in the early 80s right up until the mid 200s. The PBS-hosted show is right up there with legends like Sesame Street – another of the channel’s kids’ favourites – in terms of endurance and popularity. So why was it axed? Perhaps it was a sad testament to America’s departure from print media – and novels in particular – that 2006 heralded the end for this children’s reading programme.
After its cancellation, inconsolable American families jumped at the chance to recapture the show’s magic via the same portable technology that may well have killed it. The Reading Rainbow app, released in 2012, fast became the most popular education app on the iTunes store. It was likely this vote of confidence that inspired LeVar Burton and his team to appeal to the show’s fan base to help bring Reading Rainbow’s winning format and admirable goal of educating children to more platforms and more classrooms the nation over.
Kickstarter is a forum that allows the public to put their faith – and their money – into those exciting projects that have perhaps failed to garner commercial, big-league support. It’s also a place where creative individuals can free themselves from the shackles of contractual obligations and commit to making the product they want, the way the public want it, with total creative freedom and no-strings-attached funds. In the case of ‘Reading Rainbow’, it seems a well-loved program in which the commercial execs had lost faith has proven its worth beyond what anyone could have imagined, and is now set to take the world of American literary education by storm. By liberating itself (or being liberated from) TV land, Reading Rainbow has graduated from our screens to a cross-platform and now hands-on approach to kids’ education that could change the way we incorporate basic education into our technological world. Want to know what’s so inspired over 30,000 people to dig deep and contribute hard earned cash to the cause? Have a look below at the timeline of Reading Rainbow, from then until now.
Reading Rainbow In The 80s
The original show format back in the 1980s when LaVar first hit our screens.
Reading Rainbow Hits America
Burton bringing his message off our screens and onto the road in the U.S.
Reading Rainbow App, 2012
The app hit #1 on iTunes education apps almost immediately upon its release, 6 years after the TV show’s cancellation.
Reading Rainbow launched its Kickstarter campaign at the end of May 2014, and shot to over $1.7 million in crowdfunding within an incredible 24 hours with a proposal to tackle the problem of illiteracy among America’s youth.
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