Reading Rainbow

Program Overview & Introduction

READING RAINBOW is an educational series designed to encourage and motivate young children to read good books and visit their local libraries. The series has four design elements which form the basis for each program's development. The first three elements are the adaptation of excellent children's literature, the presentation of book related or on-site location experiences, and the depiction of the library as a valuable resource. The remaining element, the development of a positive self-concept, is implicit throughout the series. Each program has a unique and different theme that is designed to engage the young viewer. These elements are described briefly below.

The primary objective of each book adaptation is to motivate the child to seek and read that book. Based on series evaluation and interaction with a national advisory committee, as well as other professionals, each program is designed to be rich in language experiences. The books chosen excel in both illustrations and story content.

This element introduces a place or experience new to most children, or reminds them of something they have experienced in the past that will illustrate and enrich their understanding of the book.

The objective of the library element is to help the child develop positive images of the library as a place where books, magazines, films, and other interesting, creative things by children for other children--one of the most popular features for both children and adults.

This element is integrated into each program by showing adults who are respectful of children and, children who are respectful of adults and other children. Children appear as regular participants in a variety of activities that they obviously enjoy. In this and other ways the child viewers leave the program feeling positive about themselves and other people.

Each READING RAINBOW program is based on a highly acclaimed children's book. Hundreds of children's books were evaluated in the selection process for the READING RAINBOW feature and review books presented in each program. The criteria for final book selection are literary and artistic excellence, adaptability to television, appropriate theme and length, and cultural diversity. Efforts to ensure a broad cross cultural base by avoiding stereotypical portrayals of major characters is an additional criterion. The content of the series is designed to motivate children to read good books by engaging their effective and cognitive domains. One other way children become successful readers is by reading good stories that have intrinsic value and interest to them. READING RAINBOW meets the challenge of using the technology of television to stimulate children's interest in the wonderful world of books.

The goals of READING RAINBOW are twofold:

  • To encourage young children to read good books by familiarizing them with outstanding children's literature.
  • To motivate young children to use the variety of services available at their public libraries.

Each READING RAINBOW show is an upbeat, magazine-format adventure featuring children's picture books and a medley of other segments which relate to the feature books theme. The book is adapted specifically for the medium of television and acts as the centerpiece of each show. The series is hosted by LeVar Burton, the energetic actor best known for his portrayal of Commander LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The series features a guest appearance by Ben Vereen and feature books narrated by William Windom, Amy Linker, Ruth Buzzi, James Earl Jones, Madeline Kahn, Maya Angelou, Vincent Gardenia, Michael Ansara, and Bill Cosby. READING RAINBOW program segments expand on the feature book's theme and take the viewer to exciting, theme appropriate settings such as Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, the Port of Charleston in South Carolina, Dinosaur National Park in Utah and the San Diego Zoo in California. Shows are peppered with animation, dramatizations, interviews and music, and there are always three spunky children's book reviews, written and delivered on-camera by kids.

READING RAINBOW is closed captioned for the hearing impaired audience.

Funders of the READING RAINBOW series include: Kellogg Company, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting Stations, B. Dalton Bookseller, National Literacy Initiative, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the National Science Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and public television viewers. The series is a production of GPN/Nebraska ETV Network and WNED-TV, Buffalo, and is produced by Lancit Media Productions, Ltd. of New York City.

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