“You don’t have to take my word for it”


That was Levar Burton’s catch phrase to close Reading Rainbow every episode. A simple invitation to kids to explore through reading. And such an important invitation it was to me. I would beg my parents to take me to the Dauphin County East Shore Area Library in Colonial Park so I could try and find the books he talked about on that show.

I don’t know if its just me getting old and lamenting the “good old days”, but its unfortunate that Reading Rainbow is being axed.

The show’s run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show’s broadcast rights.

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
via ‘Reading Rainbow’ Reaches Its Final Chapter : NPR.

The problem with TV that is supposed to help teach children how to read…it doesn’t really solve the problem. Richard Long, Director of Government Relations for the International Reading Association contends:

“[…] setting the table is different than the actual act of learning how to read,” says Richard Long, head of the International Reading Association. The group represents reading teachers and researchers.

He’s a fan of children’s programs that promote reading but says TV is not a tool to teach explicit reading skills. That’s a job for schools — with parents doing their part, too. If they’re not, Long says, children’s programs are better than nothing.

via Children’s TV Helps But Can’t Teach Reading Alone : NPR

Youth focused TV is a good way to market reading to children than it is to teach children to read, but who would expect the Bush administration to use facts as a basis for decisions.