|Source: Reading Rainbow Kickstarter|
Who wasn't in love with Reading Rainbow?
Reading is magic. Albeit, reading is a learned passion which must be nurtured to develop; once the passion develops, a spark is ignited that can never be quenched. I cannot remember the precise moment when my addiction started. Perhaps it was the first time dad cracked open a Sesame Street book as a bedtime story, Grover-voice and all. Or maybe the first mystery Nancy Drew took me on. Whenever it happened, the important part was that it did. I am lucky. Not only do I know how to read, I love reading.
For many - 1 in every 4 kids in the United States - growing up illiterate is the reality. (source:Reading Rainbow Kickstarter or here if you’re on mobile) That statistic is a disturbing, saddening reality. No child should have to face illiteracy in this modern age. No Child Left Behind was supposed to fix this problem by pushing to increase literacy.
If you’re wondering what happened to Reading Rainbow? LeVar Burton explained it here. It wasn’t cancelled because it was not popular or had outlived its usefulness. (I know that I, for one, was glued to the screen when it played. When it ended, I was crushed. What about having it for my kids?!) It was taken off the air largely because of the change in education as a result of No Child Left Behind. The shift in education went to teaching kids how to read, the rudiments of reading, and away from teaching kids to love to read. (Which as a short-term goal makes sense: literacy is hugely important in our society, plus it is difficult to love something if you do not know how to do it.) Fostering a love of reading went to the wayside, no finances in the budget left for that. A love of reading became a luxury, not an education. Burton and the Reading Rainbow team know education does not have to an either/or kind situation. Choosing the rudiments over love of reading rather than inextricably link the two together is the definition of insanity. The truly radical notion would be to teach the rudiments of reading while fostering a love of it.
According to the statistics listed on Reading Rainbow’s kickstarter (more information to come) “ Clearly, although it has made a difference, No Child Left Behind hasn’t gone as well as planned.
When I look back on my high school career, it is little surprise. I could count on my hands the number of kids in my large class rooms that loved reading enough to enjoy the learning that went along with it. The majority of them hated it. Despised it. The current education model had so many kids hating reading. It feels like work - painful, awful, and boring. They didn’t care to expand their vocabulary because they didn’t want to read. Poor vocabulary made reading more difficult, but they didn’t want to attempt to understand what they had difficulty with because they hated reading, so they just didn’t read. They didn’t read so their reading grade levels went down. Teachers got mad at students for not trying and goofing off. Students wanted to read less. And so it started all over again. It was a vicious cycle. Motivation and curiosity for learning went out the window.
A love of learning is a love of reading. A love of reading fosters a love of learning. They are hand in hand.
Imagination is the key to everything, Albert Einstein knew that.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." – Albert Einstein
That imagination, that creativity, is what our current school system model is missing. We sacrificed imagination and creativity for the rudiments, the equally important groundwork. These two factors, however, need to be used in balance and compliment; not sacrificing one for the other. Grammar, vocabulary, punctuation – it is impossible to move up in society or career field without this ground work. They are important components of education and communication. Yet, without that imagination, there is no advancement in our society. Inventions, innovations – the internet, the cars we drive, the ways in which we clean up natural disasters and oil spills – are all made possible through imagination and creativity. Before inventing into reality, someone had to imagine the invention. Rip away a love of reading, stifle creativity, and we lose that innovation. Lose grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation and lose the ability to communicate these creations into reality. Passion without means has nowhere to go. Teaching reading is as important as teaching a love of reading and vice-versa. How does one both educate a child to be literate and have fun?
Enter Reading Rainbow.
(I listened to that song the entire time I wrote this post. No shame!)
Reading Rainbow is not just about fostering a love of reading – but a love of learning. The video adventures, such as the classic episodes featuring trips to china town to be introduced to Chinese cooking or to warehouses to see how a product is manufactured, teach children. Books are related to life; they are a doorway to knowledge, adventure, and fun. They teach us about life - problem solving, relationships, sharing. It is not just knowing how a sentence is put together or what it means, but knowing why the sentence is important. When a child is excited about something, loves something, and finds joy in it, they do it. Reading Rainbow got kids excited about reading.
Got? How about gets kids excited about reading.
First the app, now everywhere! The amazing Reading Rainbow team wants to bring back the beloved education show for children everywhere - not only to people with tablet access. Best of all, they want to make this web-accessed Reading Rainbow free for schools in need. This is an amazing opportunity for families and educators who are always on the lookout for ways to better children’s education but do not always have the means. The idea is simple: if kids love reading, kids will read. If kids have access to reading and are taught how to read, they will read. LeVar, Mark Wolf, and their team want to help with both of these factors. By being accessible to schools for free, Reading Rainbow would supplement the rudiments of reading.
In only 24 hours, the Reading Rainbow campaign raised $1 Million Dollars. With that $1 Million Dollars Reading Rainbow will be able to reach everywhere (households) via the web and every child will have access in 1500 classrooms. This is a huge opportunity! 10 days until the end of their campaign and they are at $3, 919, 839 but still not as close to the $5 Mil stretch goal. $5 Mill will enable Reading Rainbow to supply 7500 classrooms for free and supply Mobile, Android, Consoles, and OTT Boxes. Every dollar still counts. Every dollar enables Reading Rainbow to reach more children, more schools, and do more to make this the best and most educational program possible. There all kinds of ideas out there for if they reach past the $5 Million mark in the next 10 days (library access included!).
Helping out with the cause is easy: spread the word, share the kickstarter, encourage others to donate, and, if you can, donate. The donation options run from $1-on up. I am going to donation again now! Every small donate counts, just as much as the large ones. However, the larger the donations you give, the cooler the gifts. (College student here, so I’m sticking to the $1-$10 donations) Trekkies should definitely check it out! There are tons of prizes for Star Trek fans listed in the Updates section.
To donate to support, share the kickstarter, or to go to Youtube watch the funny kickstarter video over and over again, getting just as excited as I did - here are the links.
Reading Rainbow Kickstarter
Reading Rainbow Kickstarter Video
Also, go on over and check out the very first page of the Update section (now roughly page 4) on the Kickstarter where you can see an emotional and exciting reaction to the team hitting the $1 Million thresh hold. If nothing else gets your heart beating for this project, that video will.
A love of reading is the basis for an education that can bring a child anywhere. The opportunities are endless.
Look next week for what Reading Rainbow meant to me, the impact it made on my education, and how it impacted - and continues to impact - others. In the meantime, donate & spread the word!