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LeVar Burton talks Reading Rainbow, the app

July 6, 2012 | 10:56 am


"I genuinely believe we have an opportunity to revolutionize how we educate our children," LeVar Burton says. "We just have to marshal the will to get it done."

Burton, of course, is the actor who hosted and produced "Reading Rainbow," the PBS television series geared toward early readers. With a 23-year run, the show was PBS' third-longest series, but it's been off the air since 2006. Now it's coming back as -- what else? -- an iPad app.

The Times' Michelle Maltais talked to Burton about the Reading Rainbow app.

[I]n June, Burton and business partner Mark Wolfe launched the multimedia-infused "reading adventure" app. "Educational technology is what we need to get it done," he said, noting that paper's days as a storytelling medium are likely numbered. "And if we marry educational technology with quality, enriching content, that's a circle of win."...

The app currently offers 150 books, curated to appeal to children ages 3 to 9 -- kids who are "on the cusp of cracking the code and [who] just cracked the code, setting the lifelong pattern for whether they will be a reader or not," Burton said.

As a nostalgic nod to those of us who still harbor an emotional connection to the show, Burton said they spent months producing 16 video field trips, with more to come soon.

Burton has legions of book-loving fans who remember "Reading Rainbow," but that's not his only iconic role. He also played Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge, the blind navigator on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and was Kunta Kinte, the star role in the award-winning 1977 miniseries "Roots." These days, Burton -- who describes himself as actor-director-educator-student -- shares his thoughts on Twitter with 1.7 million followers.

The Reading Rainbow app is free to download and provides limited access to its content. Subscriptions allow kids unlimited access to the books, using a vibrant interface to create engaging storytelling; young readers earn rewards for their progress. A monthly subscription is $9.99, or $29.99 covers six months.


Happy birthday to the creator of 'The Little Prince'

Not writing? There's an app for that: Write or Die

Festival of Books: Are you there Judy Blume? It's us, your fan base

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Screenshot of the iTunes app page for Reading Rainbow.