Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thanks, Reading Rainbow.

The library at Nathan Hale Elementary School was my favorite place in the world, so much so that I kept going back to visit after "graduating."  It was home to circle time, puppet shows, author visits, colorful posters, the case of Nancy Drews, the card catalogue, multiple encyclopedia sets, an Apple II bank, dioramas by the "big kids," the "penny cart" where you could buy discards, Mrs. Grace Paprzycka, that giant pointer stick for underlining during story time, and perhaps most memorably of all...

...the Reading Rainbow cart.

I'm pretty sure we probably watched other shows from time to time, but on those blessed unexpected days when the television wheeled in and the VCR clicked into action, no other shows existed in the universe.  That show was magic.  We took the rest of the library for granted, but Reading Rainbow was always like the ice cream of the elementary school experience.

Reading Rainbow was amazing for so many reasons.  It got even the most spiteful children excited about books for the rest of the day and convinced the holdouts to find at least one to take home, without having to be asked.  It featured a man of color and students who looked like us in neighborhoods that looked like ours.  It talked to us with actual respect instead of using that demeaning tone that most educational shows for children always used.  It had a legitimate "cool" feeling about it.  It made places and animals we had heard about suddenly become real and alive.  It was just the best, and it changed the game.

So when it was announced that LeVar Burton, the very host I'd grown up watching, was seeking donations to bring the show back, I dove on it.  My donation was miniscule compared to what many others gave, but it just felt good finally say thanks somehow.  And I wanted to do my part to make sure that the new edition is there for my nieces and nephews and my hypothetical future children.  It's just such an important thing.  And apparently hundreds of thousands of other people still have that feeling of attachment, because we made it the Kickstarter with the most backers in history.  And people are still giving!

I filled out my backer survey tonight, and at the end there was an option to send a note to LeVar Burton.  So I sent this:

Mr. Burton, I don't think you'll ever truly understand just how much you and "Reading Rainbow" meant to so many of us growing up.  It never felt like it was just your show; it was *ours*, all of us together.  I grew up in a poor neighborhood and went to the most struggling elementary school in town, but the moment we heard those squeaky wheels on the television cart coming into our classroom or the library, we knew we were about to feel like we had all the riches in the world.  You took us on adventures and made us believe in magic, and we knew we could always find both in a good book.  I can't thank you enough for bringing this gift to a new generation, and for giving us all a chance to relive our love for the show together and support it as a small way of saying thanks.  You changed our lives -- now go change more!  :)

Reading Rainbow.  Best show ever.