World’s Strangest

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The Quick 10: Take a Look, it’s in a Book…

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Reading Rainbow rather quietly left the airwaves last year after 26 years of encouraging kids to read simply for the fun of it. To pay homage to the canceled show, we’ve got some great facts lined up for you today… but you don’t have to take my word for it.

(I know: that was lame. But I had to work it in somewhere.)

1. The first episode aired on June 6, 1983, and centered around how to have fun even when you don’t have any money. It just so happens that going to the library is totally free!
2. When Reading Rainbow ended its 26-year-run last year, it was the third longest-running children’s show in PBS history. Sesame Street beat it, of course, followed by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

3. Why did a show with more than two dozen Emmys and a huge fan base end? Simply put – money. No one wanted to cough up what amounted to nearly half a million dollars to renew the broadcast rights…

4. …But there may be hope yet. LeVar Burton rather mysteriously Tweeted in March that he was working on Reading Rainbow 2.0. There have been no updates since then, so what 2.0 consists of remains hush-hush.

5. LeVar hosted Reading Rainbow at the same time as he was in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so the kids’ show was privy to some Star Trek bloopers that hadn’t been seen anywhere else before.

6. Some of the celebrities who have read on the show include predictable people such as Bill Cosby and Maya Angelou, but also some pretty out-there celebs like Flavor Flav, Julia Child and Hulk Hogan. I’d love to see a video of the Hulk’s visit – he reads David Wiesner’s June 29, 1999, which happens to mention the name of my hometown, Ottumwa. As you might imagine, “Ottumwa” tends to inspire many different pronunciations. I’d like to hear the Hulk’s interpretation.

7. LeVar Burton loved hosting the show and has said that having an English teacher for a mother meant that books were an extremely important part of his upbringing. Even so, I bet it was a little therapeutic writing this piece for The Onion about how “my living nightmare of encouraging kids to read is over.”

8. Here’s LeVar singing the Reading Rainbow theme song after being spotted in a crowd at Diggnation L.A.

9. The theme song, by the way, was sung by Broadway actress Tina Fabrique. Chaka Khan recorded a later version that was used in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, but it’s the Tina Fabrique one that I imagine when someone mentions Reading Rainbow.

10. Here’s is the original version, which will probably be stuck in your head for the next two days. You’re welcome! Someone also discovered that slowing the theme song down makes it incredibly creepy.

Do you have fond memories of Reading Rainbow? Let’s reminisce in the comments.


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