A Rant in Defense of Reading Rainbow

Hold on a second….

*puts on Ranty Pants*

Okay.

Sometimes I fucking hate the internet, y’all. Sometimes I feel like anything good, anything I get excited about — it’s only a matter of time before articles and comments start popping up to criticize that thing I’m excited about.

I mean– I’m all for constructive criticism and acknowledging that nothing is perfect and having meaningful discussions. I am. I like discussions and conversations. I think they are good.

But I’m sick of feeling like there is literally nothing in the world that I can like and be happy about because someone else doesn’t like it, because it isn’t all things to all people, because it is in some way problematic.

I get it. I’m not fucking perfect and the world isn’t either. And since nothing is fucking perfect I get to be excited about things that are NOT FUCKING PERFECT!!

So I come to the reason for this rant.

I was scrolling through my social media yesterday, like I do, and came upon this:

Bring Back Reading Rainbow

Levar Burton wants to bring back Reading Rainbow in a very different format (which he is crystal fucking clear about in his video) to try to reach kids and inspire them to love reading.

Now I was raised on Reading Rainbow. We watched it at school. I watched it at home. The first few notes of the theme song fill me with such loving nostalgia I almost tear up.

(and did you know that this is a thing that exists?

Reading Rainbow is about imagination and creativity and not about strategies or standards or checking stupid boxes.

It was a huge part of my childhood.

So discovering that it was coming back…

I basically went like this

brb singing about my feelings

 

And I watched the campaign reach its goal of $1 million dollars IN LESS THAN 12 HOURS! Because tens of thousands of people wanted to CONTRIBUTE TO BOOKS some to the tune of  THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

And seeing so many people talk about how they love books and donating money to support inspiring THE NEXT GENERATION (see what I did here? eh? eh?) to LOVE BOOKS…

IT MADE ME SO HAPPY I ALMOST CRIED!

(I don’t know if you’ve gleaned this, but I LOVE BOOKS A LOT)

I literally told everyone in my library about it and we all fangirled together. As the day wore on I told lots of patrons about it too. And they were all excited about it.

There was a lot of excitement about it.

We talked about how RR was awesome because it didn’t talk down to kids like todays “educational” shows do. And how it was way more ethnically diverse than any show on Disney today. And how it wasn’t about ticking boxes of standards or achieving scores on standardized tests. It was about encouraging a LOVE OF READING.

And that is AWESOME! And necessary. Because you can teach all the strategies you want, and you can hold a book in front of a kid whose eyeballs you have glued open, but if they are NOT INTERESTED IN READING IT THEN NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

But before long there was the cynical article about how this wasn’t going to literally change the world all by itself so why bother. Then towards the end of my night I got on the Twitters and I started seeing angry rage posts about how we should NOT be supporting this at all because we should be funding libraries INSTEAD and how this won’t save every poor illiterate kid everywhere so we shouldn’t waste our money on it and how it’s a for-profit organization so therefore corrupt and awful.

And I just went


images-3

Now…

YES we need to do more to serve the kids who don’t have a computer at home and high speed internet and parents to buy the subscription to Reading Rainbow in its new form.

YES it is frustrating that people will donate money to a kickstarter campaign more readily than they will sign petitions to keep library funding.

YES I wish libraries could raise $1 million dollars in a day.

NO Reading Rainbow is not the be all end all savior of all our reading/education problems.

BUT IF WE WAITED FOR THINGS TO BE PERFECT WE WOULD NOT HAVE ANY THINGS! WE WOULD HAVE NONE OF THE THINGS!

anna kendrick

People are bitching about it being for profit, about the limited number of classrooms who will be getting it for free— do you have any idea how much money it takes to make this kind of stuff? To design it and program it and launch it and maintain it and film it? It takes a lot of people and those people all deserved to be paid and that costs money.

Do you know how many educational programs and subscriptions exist that are not free for anyone anywhere? TONS AND TONS! Burton can’t make this thing free for everyone everywhere. No way is that numerically possible. But he is trying to make it free for SOME people and while SOME is less than INFINITY it is STILL MORE THAN ZERO!!

And while this will not fix all, or even many, of the problems faced by our libraries and school systems if it inspires any kid to love reading– that is good. If it inspires any person to think “Reading Rainbow was awesome. I want to support books. I wonder how else I can support books?” THAT is good. If it inspires any corporation to go “Look at all this great publicity for things that are supporting literacy and education and books, how can we be a part of that, even if for selfish reasons because it will still help kids so who the fuck cares” THAT IS ALSO GOOD!  If it causes any kind of conversation about how authentic learning can only take place where there is interest and passion and how the plague of standardized testing is the exact opposite of everything we loved about Reading Rainbow and maybe standardized tests aren’t the ultimate measure of everything THAT IS SUPER MEGA GOOD!

THIS IS ALL GOOD! THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT THESE SCENARIOS THAT IS NOT GOOD!

Yeah I’d love it if people would donate $1 million dollars to libraries. But its not as if money is being taken away from libraries to fund Reading Rainbow. And if this is successful maybe more programs like this will be launched. And the more programs that are launched to promote education and literacy and PASSION FOR LEARNING, the BETTER IT WILL BE FOR LIBRARIES AND FOR EVERYONE!!!

Obviously everyone is welcome to their opinion. And to express it. I respect that. I also do totally cede the point that, no this will not fix the world, and yes we need to do more– much MUCH more.

But this is a fucking step in the right direction. And Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And any step forward is better than a step back. It’s better than standing still.

In a world where millions of people never try to do anything for anyone other than themselves, I will support people who are trying to make a difference. Even if their efforts are not perfect. Even if the effect will not be universal. Something is less than Everything, its true, but it is still more than Nothing.

After days of being totally depressed at the state of humanity because misogyny LITERALLY KILLS PEOPLE and having my anxiety renewed about having to travel through a less than awesome part of town for my new job I was reminded that maybe, just maybe not EVERYTHING in this GoddessDamn world is totally going to Shit because a fuck ton of people gave money to support a show that impacted them as a kid that was about CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION AND BOOKS!

good thing

So I totally support the reinvention of Reading Rainbow- spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically. And financially. I will also support these other things and I invite and encourage you do support them too:

Kyle Cassidy’s project to photograph & interview 100 librarians to make a touring gallery show & help tell the story of why and how libraries are important.

Geek the Library

A bunch of resources to support libraries in one place

Libraries Now: A Day in the Life of NYC’s Branches

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

 

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4 thoughts on “A Rant in Defense of Reading Rainbow

  1. I’m super excited about RR being brought back, too, and I loved watching the money pour in yesterday (I actually kept the kickstarter page up on my screen so I could watch the numbers keep rolling). Your post reminds me why I don’t read the comments on many online articles – the trolls make me angry, and I don’t like being angry. So I’m glad I missed all the anti-RR garbage floating about.

    Also, I love, Love, LOVE the school librarian in the video who was stuttering and after LeVar left, was all, “B-b-b-butterfly in the sky…” 😀

  2. Honestly – Reading Rainbow is probably one of the single biggest reasons I became a children’s librarian when I grew up. So, it’s changing the world for my community and all the kids I work with – even though many don’t have access to the new version – because the OLD version is what inspired me. The adventures I took, the things I learned and the stories shared ALL fuel my fire for librarianship and inspire the work I do every single day. Learning to love reading is a worthwhile cause in and of itself, and I know from first hand experience of what Reading Rainbow did for me – and clearly, a LOT of others agree, because they donated like crazy cakes!

  3. Reblogged this on The Literarium and commented:
    I, too, am beyond excited about Reading Rainbow coming back. This show is one reason I love reading and books, and stories, and books, and did I mention reading?!

  4. RR is one of the reasons I love to read, and that I love books in general. It made reading FUN and INTERESTING, and like you said it taught us as kids the value of imagination and being a f*cking KID. I’d love to have a million more shows just like it on TV instead of most of the drivel they show kids now.

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