LeVar Burton on Kickstarting “Reading Rainbow”

LEVAR BURTON COVER

Via Parade:

LeVar Burton is known to young people everywhere as the host of PBS’s Reading Rainbow, a job he held for 26 years. The actor talks to Parade about his successful Kickstarter campaign to create a Web version of the popular TV series, which he launched two years ago as a tablet app that’s been downloaded more than a million times. The campaign saw an explosive response: In a mere 11 hours they met their $1 million goal, and at press time were just short of their new $5 million target. (After our story closed, the campaign got some help from actor Seth MacFarlane, who pledged to match up to $1 million in donations.) Excerpts from the interview below:

On the impact of the campaign, which he credits to his 19-year-old daughter, Michaela:
“Michaela is of this generation, a digital native. She said, ‘Why don’t you guys just do a Kickstarter?’ As a 30-year-old brand, if we were to very publicly ask for money than fail, it would’ve probably been game over.” Now, he says, he and his supporters are “hugging ourselves silly.”

On criticism that he’s turned to crowd-funding when his company is for-profit:
“We pay to license books from authors and publishers. It’s not free. And we have to pay the people who make this possible. There’s a lot of coding, engineering, and product design involved in translating the app for the Web. … If we’re able to raise enough to create a permanent endowment to give the product away someday, I could live with that.”

On what he tells parents who want to encourage their kids to read:
“I say, ‘How much time do you spend reading in front of your kid? How many books do you have in your house? How often do you have an evening where you don’t watch TV and it’s family reading night?’ Insist by example so your child gets that reading is an important aspect of life.”

On his ultimate goal for Reading Rainbow:
“[Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry once said that the world of the future is a place where there’s no hunger or greed, and all the children will know how to read. That would be wonderful”

For more on LeVar Burton, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and his summer reading recommendations, go to parade.com/levar.

3 comments

  1. Wild applause for THIS! > “Gene Roddenberry once said that the world of the future is a place where there’s no hunger or greed, and all the children will know how to read. That would be wonderful”

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