Hi, I’m LeVar Burton and you may know me from your childhood; Roots, Star Trek, Reading Rainbow. I like to read. By now, I hope you’ve heard of my Kickstarter project to Bring Reading Rainbow Back to Every Child, Everywhere. Victoria from reddit will be helping me so let’s get started!

https://twitter.com/levarburton/status/472045743470301184 http://www.mobypicture.com/user/levarburton/view/16947498

I just want to say to the reddit community thank you. The support that you have shown me, over the years, and specifically during this campaign, has been amazing. And rest assured that I will do everything in my power to live up to the faith that you have placed in me. I'd love to come back, absolutely. And in closing, I'll say: I'll see you next time. But you don't have to take my word for it.

Comments: 4964 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

_LeVarBurton4127 karma

Someone named /u/YaytheRedHead shared a very touching story about not being able to do their book report for Reading Rainbow, but deleted their comment, so here's my reply:

Oh my god, what a beautiful story!


This is really touching. Anybody who wants something that badly, I won't stand in their way. We'll figure it out. PM my reddit account for more information and we'll figure it out.

YayTheRedHead3499 karma

I didn't delete it! It disappeared :/.

But I'm literally standing in line to get a coffee right now before work (it's 715am in Hawaii) and I'm crying! You have no idea how excited I am that you even read my comment and to get this reply..... I'm overwhelmed!!!! My life has been so touched by not only Reading Rainbow, but Captain Planet and Star Trek, as well. Thank you so much! I'll absolutely message you ASAP!


I’ve been so overwhelmed with all of the incredible responses from everyone today! I’ve been trying to reply to almost everyone, but I wanted to add a couple of quick things here to help with some common comments/questions I’m getting:

1. To everyone gifting me gold:

I reddit exclusively on Mobile! While I appreciate it very much, please either donate that to Levar's kickstarter or go give a random user gold on /r/suicidewatch. You never know how much something small can mean to someone who is so close to ending it all!

2. Regarding the 1 day old Reddit account and how I posted to the AMA so quickly:

I've been on Reddit for about 3 years (joined about 6 months before my wedding - that was a mistake! goodbye to wedding planning!) and am very active on the site. As with most other people, I didn't want to associate my main account with my real name in case this blew up and people knew who I was (I have had a number of people text/call/facebook me today, knowing it was me).

I saw that the AMA would be happening today at 12pm EST. I live in Hawaii, so 12pm EST is 6am HST. I wrote the comment for him last night and left it open in a word doc on my computer and then set my alarm for 5:45am. I also made a throwaway to use to hold onto the anonymity of my main account. I got up at 5 til 6, dragged myself into my office, found the AMA and posted.

3. Regarding the teacher:

I can honestly say that I have found ways to understand where she was coming from. As a second grade teacher in the area that I was living at the time, she should have had a 100% literacy rate in her classroom. I think that she was worried for herself/her job/her reputation where people would see that she had a student that couldn't read at that age. I'm not saying that she was right, just that I've found ways to be forgiving/understanding for her choices that day. I can't imagine that anyone would come to the decision that she did in haste and I'm sure that she had her reasons, as hurtful as the situation was.

Please don’t see her as a villain. While I honestly don't have any positive memories of her, she has been a teacher for probably 20-30 years and I'm sure she has touched countless lives in positive ways. Mine was not one of them, but even if she only did good for one person, that is enough.

4. Regarding my original comment getting deleted:

I finally received a comment from someone directing me to the sub rules. I assume that this must be the rule that I broke: Requests for personal favors from the OP (For example, "OP, can you send me a signed autograph").. I understand their reasoning and appreciate the moderation of a subreddit that has made such interesting and open discussions with so many people/celebrities possible.

_LeVarBurton2489 karma

Okay. Look forward to hearing from you, and I don't know what this will look like, but we'll work it out.

impressive_specimen3637 karma


A number of years ago, I was on vacation with some of my family in Astoria. As I was headed to the elevator one day, I saw someone else headed there but a distance behind me. I held the elevator. In walked LeVar Burton.

I told you I was a fan, and that my dad was responsible for that, being a huge trekkie.

You told me right then and there to call him, and you chatted with him for a good ten minutes on my cell phone.

My dad passed away a couple years ago. He talked about how that was one of the greatest moments of his life. "My son got LeVar Burton to call me on my home phone," he'd brag to people.

I wanted to thank you for giving that moment to me and my dad to share.

And my question is; Why are you such a stand up dude?

Edit- WOW! Thanks very much for the reddit gold x2!!

Edit 2- I might have been in Seaside.

_LeVarBurton3424 karma

Wow, God bless your dad. That's the extraordinary thing about my life, really, is my life on the street you know? Because when people approach me, I never know where it's from. These days, I have sort of become pretty good at doing a quick read - is this a ROOTS fan, a Star Trek fan, a Reading Rainbow fan. So when somebody comes up to me and says something like "My father is a huge fan" and I have the space and the grace to really engage, I have the greatest job in the world, really. Because I have found that simply by saying hello or smiling at somebody, it can literally make their day.

impressive_specimen1099 karma

Thank you greatly.

And sorry he said his favorite TNG character was Data!

I suspected I caught you a little off guard. I was about 18 at the time, shaggy haired and whatnot. Not sure you expected me to know Star Trek!

_LeVarBurton1571 karma

That's one of the best things about my life, is that every day is full of not simply surprises, but an opportunity for me to have genuine connections with people who, for whatever reason, over time, genuinely embraced what I do. And money can't buy that, so I thank you.

HotRodLincoln2831 karma

If we lived in a Fahrenheit 451 culture, which book would you want to memorize?

_LeVarBurton2659 karma

WOW. What book would I want to memorize? That's deep. That's a very deep question.

I'm really thinking about this.

Let me continue thinking about this. I will come back to answer this at the end.

dreamshoes1909 karma

Mr. Burton,

Between Reading Rainbow and Captain Planet, you made an indellible impact on my childhood. Thank you for the (gap-toothed) smiles!

My question is this:

You seem to be highly selective about the roles you take. Did the environmentalist overtones of Captian Planet play a large role in your decision to provide the voice of Kwame?

Also, thanks for doing those cameos on Community. Nothing looks better on celebrity than self-awareness.

_LeVarBurton2808 karma

Thank you for that. Captain Planet was a no-brainer for me, as stewardship of the environment and our natural resources is something I believe we should all care deeply about. As for appearances on Community and Big Bang Theory, every actor hopes to reach a point in their career where they are asked to simply be themselves.

It's a lovely feeling.

electricperson915 karma

Do you believe Captain Planet could make a comeback with all the current environmental issues and progress?

_LeVarBurton2717 karma

I sure do. If we ever needed Captain Planet, we need him now! And for the record, I'm down to be a Planeteer for life.


Killer-Jukebox-Hero1710 karma

How is the sailing trip going with Troy? Any great stories?

_LeVarBurton2308 karma

Hahaha! Well, being captured by pirates has been interesting. As it turns out, this particular band of pirates are big fans of both Community and Star Trek, so as pirates go, they've been fairly accommodating.

TownIdiot251684 karma

Hello Mr. Burton. I met Jonathan Frakes last January, and asked him what the hell was happening in this gif (http://i.imgur.com/2lQvUyu.gif), and he said he couldn't remember, but he believes it had to do with something about Patrick farting, because he would fart a lot on set. Could you corroborate the amount of flatulence Sir Patrick Stewart released while on set?

_LeVarBurton2105 karma

Haha! What!?! To my knowledge, Knights of the Realm do not fart.

Although I could be wrong.

internalwombat1604 karma

How do you feel about your kickstarter reaching its goal so quickly?

_LeVarBurton2711 karma

I am overwhelmed. Yesterday was an amazing day and quite emotional. To have reached our goal in roughly 11 hours was beyond our wildest imaginings. The fact that so many people have become a part of this, and are donating $1, $5, $10 - this is, I believe, a response to the need for people to feel like they can make a difference. It's been interesting, because along this journey we have heard from many people in terms of our business model - do you think Reading Rainbow is still relevant? Yesterday proved beyond the shadow of a doubt the relevancy of Reading Rainbow's mission. AND the importance of reading in this culture.

colonpal1161 karma

LeVar! Thank you! Thank you for doing what you're doing and bringing Reading Rainbow to the current generation. I grew up watching the show, and one of the things my girlfriend and I talked about when we have kids is that even if we had to source old episodes (this was before yesterday), we'd have them watching it as they grow up. I'm 30 now and the song still gets stuck in my head about every other week for a day.

Will Reading Rainbow be available in any way outside of the classroom, excluding on the tablets? Would a child be able to access material in the classroom and then go home and continue? Congratulations on reaching your goal!

_LeVarBurton1598 karma

ABSOLUTELY. Absolutely. Absolutely.

One of our goals for this campaign has always been universal access. What that means to me is on all devices where Reading Rainbow content will follow you from device to device, agnostically. From home, to school, from tablet, to laptop, to mobile - we want to create a seamless experience for our users. And this Kickstarter campaign is definitely giving us the opportunity to do exactly that.

brockoly816 karma

What is one thing we DO have to take your word for?

_LeVarBurton1574 karma

Hahahaha! Not a damn thing. Hahahaha!

I'd like to think, at this stage, I've gained the perspective that you can take my word for it, if you want to. But you are certainly under no obligation to do so.

iskyoork751 karma

Hi! Reading Rainbow and ST:TNG were huge parts of my childhood and I would like to thank you for that!

Any recommendations on a good book?

_LeVarBurton1799 karma

Right now, I am reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

It's summertime, and summer reading for me means escaping into a world that I can feel swept away by. And Tartt is that kind of writer for me.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

ACCrowley666 karma

Hello LeVar,

Do you think Reading Rainbow will ever have any goals to directly address ESL students in America (which surely must contribute to the 1 in 4 statistic)?

Thank you so much for everything you've done. As a child growing up in inner city Baltimore (born in '83!), Reading Rainbow (and Ghost Writer!) was everything to me. I'm now a Science Fiction writer, and I owe you more than you could possibly imagine. Congrats on meeting your goal, and so quickly. Here's to many more years of 'completely believable' support, and to many many more Reading Rainbow: The Next Generations.

_LeVarBurton693 karma

I can't even begin to tell you how happy that makes me, and the numbers of people that tell me that they make their living as a writer, and that inspiration comes directly from Reading Rainbow... I can't even express how that makes me feel.

As for the issue of more diverse literature, and addressing ESL, absolutely. Every day of my life, somebody comes up to me and says they learned English as a second language by watching PBS, and Reading Rainbow specifically. So absolutely. There's a whole population out there for whom the product, as is, is incredibly valuable - for people who are trying to learn the English language, children's literature is a brilliant entry point in ANY language for someone who is trying to learn. And certainly, as the population of the United States continues to become more and more diverse, rest assured that Reading Rainbow will continue to try to address all the needs of all of the diversity of who we are.

mayor_of_townsville517 karma

Have you ever thought about doing a RR podcast for kids with difficulties seeing?

Thanks for being such an important part of my childhood.

_LeVarBurton852 karma

Wow. Well, you know what, interestingly enough, this new iteration of reading Rainbow that really began with the app 2 years ago, one of the important aspects for me was our ability to engage in a different kind of storytelling, which is to say that every book in our service is narrated by a storyteller. I read about 10-12% of the titles, and I have hand-picked the cadre of storytellers that read the rest of the titles, like John Rubenstein or Samantha Eggar, these are storytellers, people for whom words tend to come alive when they read them. And so where the blind are concerned, that storytelling experience is already there. So I believe the audio library of literature we are creating for children is one of the finest on the planet.

Walamor506 karma

Mr. Burton, I wanted to first thank you for the huge influence you and Reading Rainbow had on me as a child. My question is how far out do you have plans for Reading Rainbow? Is this going to be a continuously updated thing for years to come, or are you making one big push of content? Thank you!

_LeVarBurton1121 karma

This is my life.

Reading Rainbow has always been much more than a job, for me.

And as long as I'm alive, and I hope, even after I'm gone, Reading Rainbow will continue to be a part of our culture. I'm really hoping to build something that lasts.

Crysknife007483 karma

I had a dream one time where you were a hobbit in space. And my alarm woke me up right before you were going to say something important. What were you going to tell me?

_LeVarBurton1068 karma

"My furry feet are cold!"

RMHX438 karma

As a child I loved RR. As a parent I say thank you. I cannot wait to share this with my daughters.

I don't know anyone my age who doesn't know the RR theme by heart. How does it feel to be attached to something so universal and good?

_LeVarBurton1016 karma

If I let myself sit in the moment, and actually open up to that question, it becomes very emotional. I really feel that being a part of the childhood of so many people - I don't think the word "treasured experience" quite covers it. I'm the son of an english teacher and a social worker, OK? and I grew up in a family where it was made clear to me that your life is meant to be about service. It's part of why I wanted to be a priest when I was a kid. I felt like it was important to use my life to help others. I think we all feel that, to some degree. In fact, I know we do. I believe we all have a contribution to make, we have all come here with a specific intention to contribute something unique to who we are. And our job is to identify as best as we are able what that thing is that we are meant to do. What is our gift, what is our contribution.

And when we do that, the world changes. There's a shift that happens that would not be there if it weren't for you, doing what you are meant to do.

I'm trying not to dwell on how large that is, you know? It's too overwhelming when I focus on it. I prefer to keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, but in moments like this when you literally ask me "so how does that feel, to have had an impact on so many people's lives" I don't have words. It's simply emotion. Because I don't have words to express that. If that makes sense.

And everyone does like the old version of the song better.

Ganon11431 karma


Many of us have seen your very emotional video at the moment your Reading Rainbow kickstarter crossed its goal just 11 hours into its 35-day run. How are you feeling now that the Kickstarter is at upwards of $1.7 million?

What are some of your favorite books - children's books or otherwise?

Can you do a program on The Neverending Story (my favorite young adult's book!)?

And, because I'm a big trekkie:

What are your hopes for the future of Star Trek? Does it belong back on television, or is it doing well in movie form? Or should it be both, as it was during the Next-gen/DS9 era?

How did you get your start in acting? What are the chances a young amateur actor like me could be in the next TV Star Trek? :)

Thank you so much! I wish you the best of luck with Reading Rainbow and all your future endeavors.

_LeVarBurton800 karma

It's still a bit overwhelming, I have to say. Waking up this morning, I'm filled with such gratitude, and optimism. It seems that our little Kickstarter has been able to corral the need for something good to be affirmed in the world. The comments on my Twitter feed, on the Kickstarter page, so many people have responded that I'm so happy this is happening, that I am proud to be a part of it, because it's good, we need this. It renews my faith in humanity. That goodness does exist. That there is value in the values we all hold dear. Our children are important, and they deserve to reach their full potential. And the fact that the original generation who was brought up on the show via television is so willing to commit to the next generation having the same opportunity has been huge for me.

Favorite children's books - that is easy. When I think about my favorite children's books, I always mention Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Enemy Pie by Derek Munson.

That's interesting! I definitely see The Neverending Story as a part of Reading Rainbow in the future, an expansion beyond the picture book for kids. Chapter books, YA fiction, I'm constantly asked about a Reading Rainbow for Adults. So know that I hear you, and we'll get there in the fullness of time.

I think we kind of addressed that - I do believe that now might be the time for a new Star Trek television series. As for what that series is - who knows.

Getting started being an actor - that's a LONG story. I studied for the Catholic priesthood when I was young. I was in seminary from age 13 to 17. It was there that I discovered my love for theatre arts, and when I decided not to become a priest, it was acting that I turned to as a place to sink my passions. Moving to Southern California and attending university there on a full scholarship as a theater major in 1974 was the first step on a pathway that has led to where I am now. As a sophomore I was cast in the miniseries ROOTS. It was my first professional audition, and it turned out to be a job that literally changed my life. Overnight. The interesting thing about the ROOTS experience for me was that it was through that experience that the power of the medium of television was brought into my life front & center.

So when the idea of using television to steer children back in the direction of literature was proposed to me, I was all in.

Nygmus329 karma

How did you initially get involved with the Reading Rainbow? I grew up with the show but I'm sadly unfamiliar with the original history of it, and wonder if there are any interesting stories there.

In addition, congratulations on the Reading Rainbow kickstarter's monumental success!

_LeVarBurton719 karma

I know we talked about this a little bit before, it seemed to be the right idea at the right time. The original mission for Reading Rainbow was to address the summer phenomenon - when a child is leaning how to read, and cracking the code, they take that 3 months summer break and their reading and comprehension skills start to suffer. So the ideal was, well let's go to, again, the "point of purchase" - where are kids in America hanging out? The answer was simple - they're hanging out in front of the TV. It was a revolutionary idea at that time, but in hindsight it seems brilliantly obvious - take advantage of the technology. And it felt pretty radical - because there was this conversation in educational circles that television was the ENEMY of education - but it was the ROOTS experience. I watched this nation become transformed during 8 nights of television, there was a SHIFT that happened. We all got an education that January and February of 1978, about slavery and the cost of slavery. Not the monetary cost, the human cost.

We aired the first episode of Reading Rainbow May 30, 1983. There were crickets, initially, you know? However, we hung in there. And it took about 3 or 4 years before we sort of picked up some steam, because it was teachers who discovered us first, again, people who are at this "point of purchase" - in the classrooms, on the ground, working with kids, helping them further their mission in the classrooms. Reading Rainbow was never about teaching kids to read, it was about fostering a LOVE for the written word. And then slowly but surely, we began to get some traction in homes, and then the research we were doing began to show that among kids who were watching the program during the summer, their reading & comprehension skills were not just being maintained, they were improving, so we knew we were onto something. Again, it's not rocket science, right ? Although there was a rocket in the introduction. Touche. But we had to look at the population we wanted to reach, and how we could access them, and it was the technology that gave us access, and we came to that audience with a message we believed in. We believed that educating kids could seem like it was effortless, that they would actually gravitate towards it, because we made it fun and exciting.

shivan21314 karma

Do you think time is coming for next ST series?

_LeVarBurton700 karma

You know, in the 20 years we went off the air - I think last friday we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our series finale, All Good Things - I've been asked this question many times. And only just now I'm feeling the time may be right for more Trek on TV, for a new series on TV.

Tujin277 karma

How do you feel about the new star trek films?

Do you hope to see what Geordi might look like in this reimagining?

_LeVarBurton1078 karma

Haha! That's assuming this timeline allows for Picard and crew to exist in! Honestly, I believe that J.J.'s incarnation of Trek has produced wonderful action movies that have brought a whole new generation of fans to our beloved Star Trek. My only issue is that I wish more of Gene's hopeful vision is reflected in these films.

The_Real_Bruce_Wayne270 karma

What is your favorite TNG episode?

_LeVarBurton796 karma

Oh my god. Okay, here's the deal: we did 179 one-hour episodes of Next Gen. Yeah. 7 seasons, and I think 4 movies. I've seen all the movies (for good, or for ill). However, there are still dozens of episodes of TNG I have yet to see. When we were shooting the show, it was impossible to watch it, there just wasn't time! And it's really comforting for me to know that at any point, in my life going forward, I could sit down and watch an episode that I've never seen before. It's like a geode that I haven't cracked open yet.

And here's the kicker - the older I get, and the more feeble my mind becomes, they'll ALL become episodes I haven't seen before!

As to my favorite TNG episode... wow. Personally, when Data and Geordi were Holmes & Watson in episodes like "Elementary, Dear Data." Those episodes represented the show at its finest. Terrific storytelling, brilliant production value, impeccable execution, pretty good acting - that's what Star Trek was all about. I think that's why people love it! The storytelling was generally of a really high caliber.

neege264 karma

Hi LeVar, you were certainly a big part of my childhood! I'm curious to know what books you've read have had a significant impact on your life?

_LeVarBurton589 karma

Wow, that's a HUGE question.

Specific books, it's tough. I believe that we are the sum total of EVERYTHING that we read. I honestly believe that!

Having said that, I know that my attachment to science fiction literature has shaped my worldview in a major way. Science fiction literature invites us to contemplate what I believe are 2 of the most important words in combination, in language: What. If.

It is in the exploration of that question - what if- that all things in this realm become possible. That's what science fiction literature has brought into my life. I cut my teeth on Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, and I simply love the genre. As an adult, my favorite science fiction author has become Octavia Butler. If you haven't read her yet, RUN and pick up her books. Also, there's a series of anthologies that come out once a year of science fiction shorts, they're called The Year's Best Science Fiction series. There are some thirty or more of them, all compiled and edited by Gardner Dozois. I love these, they are staples for my bedtime reading. They are amazing, they really are amazing.

UncertainAnswer237 karma

I just heard about your Kickstarter today, actually. Bravo. Reading Rainbow was a huge part of my childhood.

My question:

Do you believe the scarcity of educational television to be a symptom of larger educational issues, or just a move to a new medium that it's its growing pains phase (ie. Web delivered content)?

_LeVarBurton314 karma

Another great question!

We happen to be alive at a period of evolution in information dissemination, in entertainment, in science and technology advancement, that is unprecedented in human history. How we, as human beings, continue to adjust and adapt to a continually shifting universe is reflected in this dynamic where we are not kept apace in the ways we educate our kids, in terms of the advancements of the technologies available to do so.

Our efforts here at Reading Rainbow are to do what we can to help CLOSE that gap by literally using the most available technology to do the job of inspiring kids to become lifelong learners, just like television did in the 80s! Back in the day, TV was the technology we used to get to kids. If you want to reach kids today, you need to be in the digital realm, on as many devices as you can. Today's kids want and need today's technology.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

internalwombat224 karma

How old were you when you learned to read?

_LeVarBurton836 karma

I was an early reader, I think I cracked the code around 5, 4 or 5. I remember sitting with my aunt, and I was reading aloud, and my mom was in the kitchen cooking, and I got stuck on a word, and I didn't want to be wrong. And so I wouldn't say the word. But I thought I knew the word. But I didn't want to be wrong, so I wouldn't say the word. The word was "pretty," I will never forget it. And when my aunt finally gave up, and said "it's Pretty" I KNEW that, I knew that, and that's when I knew I could read. I never told that story before.

_LeVarBurton633 karma

The memory is really vivid. I can see the chair, the sense of my mom being just out of eyesight around the corner at the stove, the struggling even though I thought I knew what the word was, and as it turned out, I did.

kcriotmaker206 karma

Hi LeVar, love what you are doing for today's children and the response you've gotten. However, my question is for those children that may not have access to tablets or even the internet. Will there be other ways to connect Reading Rainbow to those children outside of the classroom?

_LeVarBurton331 karma

I am SO glad you asked that question! We hear you.

Absolutely. Loud and clear. Our plan is for mobile, for android, for libraries - all of the places where anyone who doesn't have access can go and take advantage of the product. Thousands more classrooms. We are genuinely talking about universal access for every child, everywhere. That's our goal.

internalwombat152 karma

Thoughts on the death of Maya Angelou?

_LeVarBurton623 karma

Wow. I will miss Dr. Angelou. At the moment that we were hitting "go" on the campaign yesterday, we were hearing the news of Dr. Maya Angelou passing. And she played my grandmother in the ROOTS miniseries. In fact, on my first day of filming, in the first scene, she was there. And the scene was in Kunta Kinte's hut, some giant bug came crawling into the hut, and it was Dr. Maya, Cicely Tyson, me and a young girl as well. I was a 19 year old kid, and didn't know a whole lot. I thought it was my responsibility to kill this bug to protect the women in that moment. And Maya lit into me something fierce. And I have NEVER forgotten that look. And she said "just because you are larger than a thing gives you no right to think you have control over its life or death. Because you are larger and more powerful means you have a responsibility to protect all life." And that was certainly a lesson that I needed to hear on that day.

Simonaro151 karma

when you had to wear that visor as La Forge, what was it made of and how did you see through it?

_LeVarBurton331 karma

I knew we'd get to this question eventually. The visor that I wore on NextGen was machined metal alloy. It was molded to the form of my face, And was designed to have a fairly hermetic seal, in that any light leaking in from a well-lit television set would reveal my brown eyes under the prosthetic (as you well know, when you remove the visor, Geordi's eyes are milky white). Consequently, my actual vision was restricted by 80-85% when wearing the visor. I couldn't see my feet, literally. So it became necessary to learn how to navigate the set without necessarily seeing where my feet were. A pretty significant challenge, especially given the fact that an essentially aspect of the character of La Forge was his sense of confidence and competence. There could be no hesitancy in his stride.

Rubene3143 karma

Hello LeVar,

First off, thank you. Reading Rainbow was an essential part of my childhood and I sincerely thank you for it.

My question is that what made you really want to do Reading Rainbow in the first place? Has the number of children who don't learn to read always been the same?

_LeVarBurton235 karma

That's a great question. My love for the written word stems from my mom, Erma Christian. My mother was an english teacher, and was my first teacher. And when I was growing up, she not only read TO us when we were kids, she always read in front of us. To this day, my mother has several books going, simultaneously, for her reading enjoyment.

This was a HUGE example that was set for me, early in life. That reading is as much a part of the human experience as is breathing.

zatomicaz143 karma

Hi, Mr. Burton! Congratulations on the Kickstarter campaign, I grew up with Reading Rainbow and absolutely love it!

Given the success of the kickstarter, and assuming it continues to raise even more funds, is there any chance of releasing classic episodes of Reading Rainbow online.. for everyone to check out? If they were even just on YouTube as simple, non-interactive videos, I'd love to rewatch old episodes :)

_LeVarBurton206 karma

So happy you asked!

Because classic Reading Rainbow is available to the consumer on iTunes, and some on Amazon.

Here are the links - thank you Victoria!



davelad86136 karma

Geordi, how does it feel to know that killing you is a requirement to advance to the rank of commander? (Currently watching the one where you're a hypnotised assassin)

_LeVarBurton210 karma

Killing me was a requirement to advance to the rank of commander? Really? That happened? I guess it's proof of the adage that human beings tend to forget the painful bits.

the2ndjay126 karma

Hi Mr. Burton. Thank you so much for Reading Rainbow. It was a huge part of my childhood and I'm excited to be a backer for your new project.

As someone who doesn't have a lot of money to donate, what more can I do to help?

_LeVarBurton221 karma

Listen, thank you SO MUCH for even considering. And it's not about so much, the fact that you have donated AT ALL, these dollars really are adding up. However if you do want to do something else, please spread the word to your circle of friends and family, and let them know about it. Absolutely.

_LeVarBurton310 karma

Whatever it is - genuinely, even if it's a dollar - it's making a difference. And that's the thing - please stop apologizing everybody for only being able to give a dollar! I get it, I know how tight times are - I understand. The fact that you feel it's important at all to part with your hard-earned cash means the WORLD to me. It means that you're with us on this, that you're a part of this. So please, please please, stop apologizing. You're making a difference, you need to know that. You're making a difference. I have heard time and time and time again yesterday "I'm so happy for you, that the campaign is funded but more importantly, I'm also happy for the kids that this is funded." And that's the truth.

Partyof496 karma

Hi there friend,

What can be done to improve the literacy and retention rates of minority children from lower-income inner city neighborhoods? Harlem Children Zone, with Geoffrey Canada's Baby College program has started to make a tremendous impact.

Can we gather national support to help educate and revitalize the communities most in need and at risk for poorer health outcomes? What would you say to parents? Thanks for your time.

_LeVarBurton138 karma

Thank you for your question. My opinion is that efforts like those you've mentioned, which are really centered around being "the point of purchase" - on the ground, in the place where the most need exists - those are the most effective. And whatever we can do to support THOSE efforts is a good thing. It's always a good thing.

klamon72 karma

Where is the strangest place that someone has recognized you?

_LeVarBurton224 karma

Hahahaha! It happens quite often. In the men's room. When somebody suddenly looks to their left or right, and realizes "OH MY GOD IT'S LEVAR BURTON." The fear is always there that they will forget what they are doing, and pee all over my leg. But then they forget themselves, and they usually want to shake my hand, so it's a little awkward.

Commkeen55 karma

Congratulations on the success of the Kickstarter so far!

I read through the Kickstarter description a few times, but it seems like details on the new Reading Rainbow are pretty vague at the moment. I had a few questions:

  • What format do you plan to take with the project? Is the goal to take the existing episodes of Reading Rainbow and put them into new formats, or are you producing new episodes as well?
  • If you are creating new episodes of Reading Rainbow, will you be hosting them?
  • How will the show be available? Will it be free on the web for everyone, only available via subscription (except for sponsored classrooms), or something different?

I'm happy to see this project take off - I grew up with RR and TNG, and I'm excited to watch both shows with my future children someday!

_LeVarBurton97 karma

Let me be clear, if you will, that this generation of Reading Rainbow will be delivered in, is new content - books currently available in the marketplace, and brand-new video field trips with LeVar. Yes, I will be creating new episodes and hosting them, and for clarity's sake, when you say new episodes, this is NOT a television show or web series - the model for this version of Reading Rainbow can be found in the app: http://www.readingrainbow.com/rr-app

The offering will be a hybrid, inasmuch as there will be a consumer product on the web, and a separate product for schools and classrooms, and that product will be subsidized for Title 1 schools.

CaptainSupreme37 karma

Good morning, Mr. Burton! I know there have been many Reading Rainbow skits; however, are there any that stand out in particular to you? What did you enjoy most about making the skits, because I loved them as a kid. Also, I'd like to thank you for coming back. Kids today need you, and it is great to see that you're understanding and observant of how today's kids receive their information. Great work!

_LeVarBurton88 karma

I appreciate that. My favorite video field trip? Oh, wow, oh my goodness. Of all the jobs I've had, I think being the host of Reading Rainbow has always been the best. And that includes being the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise. That's because of the amazing places that we got to go, and the things I got to do. I learned to scuba dive through Reading Rainbow, I flew a plane for the first time because of Reading Rainbow, went hot air ballooning - I mean, the show really was a demonstration that you could go anywhere! In the new app, we got to go the White House to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, I couldn't believe it. They actually let us in with Reading Rainbow cameras. And we watched how money LITERALLY gets made. We were the first camera allowed in the room with the Declaration of Independence since 9/11. Why? Because we're Reading Rainbow. They open the doors, and their hearts, because they GET what we're doing. That's the legacy that we're trying to perpetuate here. Really trying to provide something of value. I really can't pick just one, there are so many skits.

dreamcloud1335 karma

What is your favorite drink?

_LeVarBurton108 karma

I love water. I'm not a coffee guy, I like tea. I like licorice tea. I'm a beer guy, I like beer. I'm not a beer snob, like /u/wil (hahaha).

_LeVarBurton125 karma

By the way /u/wil was AMAZING yesterday - he sponsored a classroom and ponied up a substantial pledge. And he is a beer snob, we were at a Con once and having bbq, we were in Kansas City having BBQ for lunch, and I went out and got some Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which, you know, beer and BBQ went together. But Wil would NOT stoop to allow a beverage so low. He only drinks craft beers, and highfalutin' beverages.

orangejulius25 karma

Why isn't your website free for all kids? My god daughter, for example, comes from a very poor family but uses my address to attend school in a wealthy school district. I think under your current subscription plan, she'd be excluded from accessing your material. Is there any way it could be made available to all kids?

_LeVarBurton51 karma

Yes, absolutely, that is a key part of our strategy. A large part of the Kickstarter funds will be dedicated to making the product designed specifically for classrooms, making it available for free, to schools in need, schools that can't afford it. With every million dollars raised, we will be able to give Reading Rainbow away for free to an additional 1500 classrooms.

Miss_Interociter21 karma

Hi LeVar, thanks so much for doing this AMA!

I wanted to thank you for all you’ve done to support and fight for public broadcasting, whether it be the actual federal entity or the true mission of public broadcasting, which to ensure excellent programming is available for everyone - like a Reading Rainbow web series.

I grew up in a public broadcasting family - my dad worked in public broadcasting from before I was born up until his death about a decade ago. In fact, in 1995, when Congress launched a huge effort to do away with public broadcasting, my dad worked at the CPB and I was due to go to college that fall. I was really frightened, both that America would lose a valuable resource and that my dad would lose his job right before I started college. I've been so very grateful for years that you testified before Congress and helped save public broadcasting that year.

Do you see public broadcasting - radio and TV - surviving well into the Internet age with technologies like Pandora, Slacker, YouTube, Kickstarter, podcasts and, basically, the ability of artists to easily raise money and self publish without needing the medium of public broadcasting?

_LeVarBurton37 karma

That's a great question. And the answer is: I'm not sure. The original idea for Public Broadcasting was that the government would ensure that all of its citizens, mostly those in rural areas initially, had access to the airwaves. The original mission was that quality enriching content would be made available to America's citizens for free, and that the government would take on the responsibility of making sure that happened. In the current politician and economic environment, that mission is under fire. As a consequence, PBS has had to change with the times, alter its strategies in order to survive. I believe the jury is still out. From my own point of view, I definitely believe in a public/private partnership. It takes more than just opening the governmental coffers. I believe people need to become involved as well, that's why this Kickstarter has been so amazing for me because it proves that if you can present a PROVEN solution, and give people an opportunity to feel like they can participate in the cure, they will. And they have. These last couple of days have really shown me that that spirit is alive and well.

Dargok19 karma

Hello Mr Burton!

Thank you for pushing to bring Reading Rainbow back, it was such an amazing thing. RR was the only reason I was interested in books as a child. Thank you for everything RR does for everyone, not just kids. I'm glad to see the kickstarter is going well, I'll be chipping in when I get paid on Friday. RR is worth, and deserves, ridiculous amounts of money as we definitely have such a need for this everywhere.

1) What about RR keeps you so passionate about it?

2) Will you make any more appearances on The Big Bang Theory?

_LeVarBurton41 karma

2) I'll answer part 2 first. I certainly hope so.

1) It's really simple: I believe that literacy, the ability to read, in at least one language, is as inalienable a human right as anything I can think of. For me, the power lies in being able to educate oneself. As the saying goes, "Don't take my word for it." Pick up a book, and have a personal experience with what's out there.

What that means to me is that if you can read, you are literally free. No one can enslave you. No one can dominate you. Or trick you into behavior that is contrary to what's good for you.

If you can read, and are open to learning on a lifelong basis, you can be a free participating member of society.

bogusjedi10 karma

Hey LeVar thanks for taking time out of your day to answer some questions!

How would you say the show has changed from when you first started to when it ended? If it had changed was it done from you maturing or how the eras received information?

Thanks again!

_LeVarBurton25 karma

The format of Reading Rainbow never changed, it was absolutely consistent when it was on television. I think the brilliant thing about its translation into an app was that we were successfully able to maintain the integrity of the most important parts of the show - books and video! In addition to the books, Reading Rainbow was always known for connecting that literature to the real world through the video field trip. And that tradition is VERY much alive in the current incarnation of what it is now.