Last month, LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of reviving his beloved children’s TV series Reading Rainbow in a free online format. The iconically nerdy host has already roped in $4 million, but he’s hoping the project’s funding can go even higher. Comedy mainstay Seth MacFarlane told Burton that he would match the next $1 million raised for the project.
Burton announced the news in a video, confirming that MacFarlane (Family Guy, A Million Ways to Die in the West) will match the next $1 million dollar-for-dollar in the campaign’s five remaining days. The project took only 11 hours to reach its initial goal of $1 million, which ensured that the free web version of Reading Rainbow will reach 1,500 classrooms in disadvantaged areas. Should the project reach its $5 million goal, the number of classrooms impacted would rise to 7,500, but with MacFarlane’s potential million-dollar contribution, the funding would allow Burton to spread the reading series even further than originally envisioned.
“If we can raise the remaining million, we won’t just get 7,500 classrooms,” Burton says. “We’ll get more than 12,500 classrooms!” That funding level would also help bring the series to “mobile phones, game consoles like X-Box and PlayStation and set-top boxes like AppleTV and Roku,” while also helping teachers acquire “guides, leveling and dashboards.”
Burton recently spoke to Rolling Stone about his admirable revival, saying he was inspired to use Kickstarter after seeing “the success of Zach Braff’s movie [Wish I Was Here] and the Veronica Mars project.” He also spoke about the cancellation of the original Reading Rainbow, which aired on PBS from 1983 to 2006 and continued in rerun format until 2009.
“We were a victim of No Child Left Behind, in that the shift in the governmental policy made a choice between teaching kids how to read and fostering a love of reading,” he said. “And teaching kids how to read was the direction that No Child Left Behind mandated. We have never been about the rudiments of reading, so we were left on the minus side of that equation.”
The goal of the new Reading Rainbow, Burton says, is “universal access.”
“We believe that in order to reach kids, you need to be where they are,” he noted. “And whether that’s on a handheld or a tablet or a game console, the point is to be in front of them on the devices that they choose to be on. So it’s not a different audience, it’s just the audience. The audience that can’t afford an iPad may be on the Web or if you don’t have an Android, you probably have access to the technology in school.”