Monday, September 7, 2009

"Reading Rainbow" Reaches Its Final Chapter

This Is How the World Ends.

As a result of a Department of Education obsessed with policies that focus on learning fundamentals like phonics and spelling instead of comprehension, the joys of self-discovery and the value of making meaningful choices, neither PBS, nor the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be renewing Reading Rainbow's broadcasting rights. NPR's report, "Reading Rainbow Reaches Its Final Chapter" details how the Emmy award winning 26-year-old program hosted by Levar Burton is coming to an end.

As a precocious child, I'd polished off the entire Chronicles of Narnia series by the age of eight. Twice. Reactions from my teachers varied from disbelief to outright irritation. With regards to educational programming, I was more interested in Yan Can Cook and Julia Child than the fantasyland of Mr. Rogers or the ridiculous antics of the Electric Company (no disrespect!), which I thought insulted my tender intelligence.

Reading Rainbow was one of the only children's shows I adored, especially because it was one of the precious few that treated children with dignity. Here were kids acting as tiny hosts: they liked books and they spoke on a face-to-face level about the ideas they had fostered within themselves. The cancellation of a show that openly addresses adolescent escapism seems oddly draconian.

By the time I was in the fifth grade (and making my first run at the Lord of the Rings) my elementary school had put me aside to help teach other children how to read. Even at age ten I realized you can not teach someone how to read if they don't love to read, and Reading Rainbow demonstrates that learning fundamentals (suck it NCLB!) is best accomplished by instilling a deep love of reading in children.

To this day, I can not make it through the unreasonably emotion-jerking theme song without bursting into tears. It calls to mind an age before the internet when I thought I could learn how to do anything, to be anything, or go anywhere by simply going to the library. And when the snarky teachers punished me because they couldn't believe I read the whole thing in just a couple of hours, I could just open up another book and hang out with people who were just like me.

1 comment:

  1. A sad day indeed. I heard years ago that Reading Rainbow was struggling for renewal every year, being reduced to about four new episodes a season because it didn't bring in any revenue from merchandising. No little Levar Burton dolls shoving Dora the Explorer off the shelves (and mores the pity).