Five Things You Didn’t Know About Reading Rainbow

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As we just told you about today, the  classic children’s program, Reading Rainbow, is returning thanks to a tremendous amount of donations to Levar Burton’s Kickstarter campaign. The over $1 million donated will allow Reading Rainbow to now be available to a new generation through a web version for families at home, the creation of a  classroom version for teachers, and free access to Reading Rainbow for schools in need, institutions that may not be able to afford it.

Upon discovering that the campaign had already reached its intended goal in less than 24 hours, Burton posted this video to YouTube. In it, he thanks every person who donated to the cause, even those that could only give $1.

With such great news about such a great program, it got us thinking about Reading Rainbow and what a cultural impact it has had on our country since it first premiered back in 1983. Here are five things you might not have known about Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow almost didn’t have Levar Burton as its host 

Due in large part to his mother, a devout Roman Catholic and social worker, Burton was also very religious. Beginning at the age of 13,  he studied to become a priest and believed it to be his true calling. When he turned 18, however, Burton changed his mind and decided to study theatre, thus setting him on the path to eventually become the host of Reading Rainbow.

Levar Burton was born in Germany

Burton’s father was a career solider in the active duty Army, until retiring as a Sergeant First Class. Reportedly, Burton’s mother (who was a social worker before becoming a school teacher) gave birth to Levar while she was stationed with his father in Landstuhl, Rhineland-Palatinate, Deutchland.

Reading Rainbow once hopped aboard the Enterprise

In one episode during the original run of Reading Rainbow, Burton took a slight detour from the show’s typical format and gave viewers a behind the scenes look at Star Trek: The Next Generation. Burton starred on the series for seven years (he hosted Reading Rainbow for over 20) and was involved with numerous Star Trek sequels and spinoffs. Here’s the original video of Burton showing audiences around the Star Trek set.

Levar Burton, the director - While he’s most famous for being an actor, Levar Burton is also quite the accomplished director. While he never stepped into the director’s chair for an episode of Reading Rainbow, Burton did direct two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation while he was still starring on it. Years later, he directed more episodes of Star Trek series, such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Additionally, Burton has also directed episodes of Charmed, JAG, and Las Vegas.

Reading Rainbow is Troy Barnes’ favorite show

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t count as a “real fact,” but it deserves to be posted anyway. Levar Burton came back to TV in a big way the past couple years with guest stints in episodes of Community, where he was the idolized role model for Donald Glover’s Troy Barnes. Set your phasers to “love me” and watch the two videos below. If you didn’t already get it before, they”ll help you understand the true awesomeness that is Reading Rainbow and Levar Burton.

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Chris is a graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he majored in English and FIlm. He has been writing for TVOvermind and Uncoached for two years and has written about numerous different television shows and pop culture topics. Contact him through Twitter (@ckinger13)
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