LeVar Burton Plans to Take Reading Rainbow Even Further 

With the huge success of the Reading Rainbow app Kickstarter page and hoping to give universal Web access to children, the star behind it all has big, big plans for the extra cash raised and big, big hopes for the generations to come.

LeVar Burton Courtesy of Reading Rainbow

Of course there are always critics on the sidelines, regardless of the ventures, and Burton took the time to address some of the criticisms his Kickstarter campaign has faced.

“People are saying, ‘What about kids who don’t have the Internet?’ ” he said. “Well, 97 percent of American families have access to the Internet, and for a child whose family doesn’t have access to the Internet, they are more likely than not able to access it through where? Their school.”

“The first million was going to give us the ability to give the school product away to 1,500 classrooms; $5 million gives us the ability to give it away to 7,500 classrooms who can’t afford it,” Burton added. “This is really big. It’s significant. We would be able to help significantly more kids discover the joys of literature and the written word with this additional money we have raised.”

There were other criticisms pointing out that some people may have donated to the campaign thinking that the free TV show was going to come back, not a for-profit digital app. Burton was quick to address and dismiss those criticisms as well.

“We made it quite clear what we were doing, and if you didn’t read the Kickstarter page it is easy to understand how you might be confused about what we’re doing,” he said. “Television was the technology that we used back in the day. Why? Because that’s where America’s kids were hanging out! Today’s kids are using today’s technology, and if you want to reach them you’ve got to be on these devices. You’ve got to be in the digital realm.”

“So we’re doing the same thing that we’ve done for 31 years, next week. Reading Rainbow aired June 5, 1983. We’ve been doing this for 31 years, we know it works! We’ve proven with the app that it works for this generation. Kids come to the Reading Rainbow app reading 139,000 books a week. So given that, it was really important for us to expand our footprint and go for universal access,” Burton added.

As for the fact that the Reading Rainbow experience is no longer “free,” well, Burton points out, Reading Rainbow was never really free to begin with.

“That is a huge misunderstanding. It’s a fallacy, first of all, and it’s a huge misunderstanding of how public broadcasting works. Public broadcasting is made possible by the government, corporations and ‘viewers like you.’ There was no cost to the consumer, but it didn’t mean it was free,” the actor said. “Content costs money to create, yesterday, today, tomorrow. You don’t make something out of nothing for nothing.”

“What more can I do than try and give it away to classrooms and to schools that can’t afford it? I’m a for-profit business. I can’t afford to give it away to everybody for free. I would be out of business tomorrow,” he said.

Luckily for Burton, that won’t be a problem, thanks to the fans who have stood behind him.