Tag Archives: Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow Update


Lots has happened for this campaign in the last week, and I want to implore you to donate if you haven’t. As a true testament to the beauty of what this campaign stands for, a guy I truly can’t stand, Seth McFarlane, has committed to matching all donations given to the campaign from $4 million to the $5 million mark. Since the campaign is currently funded at at $4.3 million, if it ended today, McFarlane would donate ~$300,000. This also means that if the campaign gets fully funded at $5 million, McFarlane’s matching donation will bump the campaign all the way to $6 MILLION DOLLARS.

Not only is this way more than the campaign ever hoped to reach at the beginning, it also means they will be able to provide the Reading Rainbow resources to 12,500 classrooms in need. Their original goal was 2,500 classrooms, and they might be able to increase that number tenfold.

Again, this demonstrates the true beauty of this campaign. I dislike Seth McFarlane and all of his work, but the fact that we could both support the same cause is awesome.

On top of this, the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter has officially broken into the Top 5 most successful campaigns in the history of Kickstarter. This was celebrated by the other four campaigns contributing in their own way. That’s right, other Kickstarter campaigns are getting behind LeVar Burton and his team.

Each is contributing a limited edition reward package to the campaign. The Pebble team is contributing a smart watch reward package. The Veronica Mars campaign has set up live book readings with the cast of the movie. And so on. It’s such a cool display of how much good will there is for the mission of Reading Rainbow.

So if you haven’t donated yet, please do. Even if it’s five dollars. Every little bit helps. Whatever you donate will be matched and there are so many cool reward packages to choose from as a thank you from the Reading Rainbow team. I have so much faith in this campaign and the mission of the team behind it. Literacy and learning make this world a remarkably more fulfilling place for those who have them. The Reading Rainbow team believes this and I’m incredibly proud to be supporting them in this mission.


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Reading Rainbow

This link will appear various times throughout this post so I hope you click it at least once.

The world we live in can be overwhelmingly disheartening. In our country, we are subjected to a broken political system where it seems like nothing can get accomplished and things continually get worse. We are a people so unwilling to do the littlest thing for our neighbor because it’s an inconvenience.

And then there are things like Reading Rainbow and its Kickstarter campaign.


Just a quick bit of background, Reading Rainbow was a show on PBS that premiered in 1983. It was hosted by LeVar Burton (guy in the picture) and encouraged its viewers (aimed at kids in elementary school) to read. Each episode covered a topic found in a children’s book (the rain forest, optical illusions, lions, music, etc.), and explored it through several segments, while recommending several other books on the topic for viewers to seek out and read.

That video was my childhood. Reading Rainbow was in the lineup of PBS shows I watched religiously as a kid. I guarantee that this next statement is included in every piece written by a mid-’20s to mid-’30s writer about Reading Rainbow or this Kickstarter campaign, but I feel obligated to include it:

Reading Rainbow had an incalculable effect on my love of reading and learning. (If it’s any indication, I named my book review blog series I started at the beginning of the year “Butterfly In The Sky.”)

One might assume that because I am a career librarian, I have some entitled love of the show that transcends the “average” viewer’s love of the show. First of all, librarianship is not a field of book reading. Books are only a part of the field, and I could write a long post about this but others have done it far more eloquently than I could. I encourage you to go read some librarian-written blogs. They’re awesome.

Secondly, of course I’m grateful to the show for instilling a love of reading in me. But far more importantly than that, the show encouraged a love of learning. Learning was its cornerstone. It just happened to explore the joy of learning through the lens of literature, which I think I was predisposed to love due to my educational upbringing (shout out to homeschooling moms with el. ed. degrees) and the ironic fact that my staunchly conservative parents were overwhelmingly supportive of our family’s utilization of any and all resources at that most liberal of government institutions, the public library.

Here’s that link again.

But I’m digressing. Let’s fast-forward 30 years to 2013. By last year, Reading Rainbow had been off the air since 2006 (23 seasons, not too shabby for a publicly funded television program) but had regained some serious patronage numbers through the release of their iPad app in the summer of 2012. The app allows for unlimited reading of children’s literature and video field trips with LeVar. Within 36 hours of its release, it became the #1 most-downloaded educational app in the iTunes App Store. Well done, Reading Rainbow team.

Fast-forward one more year, to just about three weeks ago. Reading Rainbow launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make their app available on the grand-daddy of all digital platforms, the web, along with 1500 free classroom subscriptions to lower income schools. The initial fundraising goal was $1 million.

And this is really where the heartwarming stuff comes in. The campaign hit its fundraising goal of $1 million in 11 hours.

ELEVEN hours. That’s insane. That means enough people cared about this project getting off the ground to contribute a 7 figure sum of money. That many people cared about getting literature in front of kids, to promote literacy, learning, and the pure imagination that comes from reading. It makes me emotional.

After they hit that goal in almost no time flat, the team behind the campaign decided to raise the goal to $5 million. With this goal increase, the team will be able to offer the app through multiple digital platforms (Android, gaming consoles, OTT boxes, etc.) and offer free classroom subscriptions to 7500 classes.

This is huge. The amount of kids who will have access to this app has exploded with their goal increase. Right now, the campaign has raised $3.8 million, and approximately 82,500 backers. There are 12 days left in the campaign, and while they raised the second million within the next 24 hours, the funding has slowed considerably since then.

Here’s where you can help. Go to this link, and pledge some money. You can pledge as little as $1 and as much as you want above that. Plus, you get gifts based on how much you pledge. Honestly, there is not a downside.

It’s weird how strong of a visceral, emotional reaction to this campaign I had when I heard of it. It was an amalgam of nostalgia and pride and hope, mainly due to my month-old baby daughter. My hope is that she grows up in a world where learning is easily accessible for her. Where she is empowered by information, by the facts, by truth, rather than frightened by them. A world that puts value into her character and personality and mind rather than into the preconceived roles it thinks she needs to play.

I want Millie to have every opportunity she can to experience what a painfully beautiful world this can be. I truly believe the best way she can do that is through learning and the belief that her imagination and creativity and curiosity will take her wherever she wants to go. I think Reading Rainbow believes the same thing, and that’s what they want to bring to kids all over the country. I strongly support their mission, and I hope you do too. The campaign ends on July 2nd, so go pledge!


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Juliet, Naked

I just finished the latest novel by Nick Hornby, called Juliet, Naked. Where to even begin with this one. Definitely worth the read. Hornby has such an incredible way with dialogue and metaphor. He communicates his ideas in such unique ways through his prose; everything he has written is informed with this very intelligent yet accessible use of words.

My favorite Nick Hornby book is still, and probably always will be, High Fidelity. It had the perfect voice of a messed up guy just trying to figure out his relationships, connecting everything in his life with music. The book speaks to me more directly than any other novel I’ve ever read. And while I liked that one more than Juliet, Naked, this was definitely the most entertaining of all his novels behind High Fidelity, probably because it’s much along the same lines. The book is about an English couple who lead mediocre lives. The guy is Duncan, obsessed with the music of Tucker Crowe, a reclusive American musician whose last release (entitled Juliet) came out twenty years ago. Since Duncan is the regarded as the foremost authority on all things Tucker Crowe (he is basically in charge of the Tucker Crowe online forum/message board), he is sent an advanced copy of Juliet, Naked, an album of the demo tracks that eventually would become the tracks of Juliet. He writes a review of this new demo album, and this review is the impetus that sets a whole string of events in motion. That was maybe too long of a synopsis.

There are a lot of reasons why I liked this book. And one big one why I didn’t. Let’s get the negative out of the way. I didn’t like the ending. Done. Now to the good stuff. It read better for me than any of his other books (with the exception of High Fidelity, of course). A big part of that is probably due to the musical nature of the content, which I really enjoyed. Hornby has this intimate knowledge of music, and just as important, he knows how to translate that knowledge to the page. It’s incredible. And to hear his observations on music from different viewpoints was very cool. You’ve got the musician himself, the obsessed fan, and the non-obsessed fan, all with thoughts on the same album. Even cooler, it’s not just a normal album, but demos from a critically-acclaimed, classic break-up album. There is an important and intriguing relationship between the recorded album versions of songs by an artist and the demos of those songs. Hornby explores that musical relationship to very interesting depths. And the voice of each main character seems right on. I obviously don’t know what it’s like to be a famous and successful music artist but it sounds right to me. I do, however, know a lot of how the obsessed and non-obsessed fans think and feel towards the music of their idol and towards the idols themselves, and Hornby has nailed exactly how these fans think and feel and talk.

One thing that I especially loved in this book is how Hornby breaks down the relationship between the fan, the art, and the artist. One of my favorite passages of the whole book is when Duncan’s girlfriend Annie reads his review of the newly released Juliet, Naked (the demo album) and finally sees Duncan in a new light. It’s such a brilliant exposition of fans versus their idols and the art they create and to be honest, it got me super worried about myself. I’m not an artist. I don’t write songs that people listen to and enjoy. I don’t write novels that people read and enjoy. Et cetera. Yet I’d say the majority of my blogs are my review of something, an album, a book, a TV show, whatever. And Annie’s thoughts on Duncan’s review are scathing, because while he writes thinking he is an expert on the music of Tucker Crowe and able to expound on his music with more authority than anyone else, she realizes that really he’s just a pompous ass who reviews other people’s work with a smug authority because he can’t actually create anything of real value himself. As soon as I finished that passage, the passage where Annie realizes what Duncan’s review actually says about Duncan as a person, I immediately read it again and then thought about how I write. It’s a tad distressing to think that the writing you’ve spent a fair amount of time and energy on might just be a lot of hot air. It will, at the very least, make me think as I continue to write about things I’m into, or things I’m not into.

Back to the book. So there’s lots of cool thoughts on fans, artists, art, etc. Also covered in great lengths is divorce and the relationship between spouses, exes, and parents and children, some close to home, some estranged. Hornby doesn’t tread lightly around taboos, and it makes for very thoughtful writing. He challenges societal conventions, but not in a “let’s tear the system down” type of way, in a rather subtle way. For example, he touches on the subject of the differing of parental love toward different children. And he handles the subject gracefully and makes sense in the way he writes. That’s what I love about Hornby’s writing. It makes sense. Even if you don’t agree with him, you’ve never seen the idea presented from quite such a unique angle and it makes you think hard through what he’s saying.

This is a great book; Hornby’s written another gem. But don’t take my word for it! (Dun nuh dun!)


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