The drought, my friends, is over. Ever since apps entered our lives, there’s been something missing. A disconnect of sorts. We’ve walked around thinking we had something special, but we’ve all been missing out. We just didn’t realize it. Only now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel do we realize that we were in a tunnel in the first place. That’s right: LeVar Burton is coming to the world of apps.
Burton is bringing back Reading Rainbow, his popular and critically-acclaimed TV show that introduced an entire generation to reading and literature, in the form of a Reading Rainbow iPad and Android app developed by his new production company, RRKidz (I know; the Z is a bit much). The app will be free, and hundreds of interactive children’s books will be offered within a monthly subscription service as the app continues to develop. Burton will personally read a good amount of those.
Burton managed to raise a round of funding for the app from Raymonds Capital and the Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation. Burton is new to these types of apps, he has said, but he’s willing to learn. He was quoted in VentureBeat saying, “I am learning a lot about the mechanics of storytelling in the digital realm. But as a storyteller and an actor, engagement is what I know about.”
“Humility” wouldn’t be the first word used to describe Burton. A notorious HumbleBragger, Burton’s picture on Twitter looks like something out of an Old Spice commercial, and he describes himself by saying, “Actor, Director, Educator, Student”. He’s been guilty of referring to himself in the third person in interviews before. But in this case, his lack of gravitas is somewhat warranted. While he was never a full-fledged movie star, he carved out a niche for his career with memorable parts in Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Plus, he was great on "Community" last year. And his involvement with Reading Rainbow made him an icon for an entire generation of kids that grew up with it. He’s earned the right to think highly of himself.
This is just about the right time for a Reading Rainbow app to come out. While kids will choose what they’re going to watch on TV to some degree, parents, for the most part, dictate what books they’re going to read. A whole generation that grew up watching Reading Rainbow is now having kids of its own. This new generation of parents will remember how much Burton’s program impacted their childhood, and they’ll want to pass that down to the next of kin, and, fittingly, parents are the ones that have iPads and Android devices to show this app to their kids. They will be able to teach to their kids the benefits of reading through this familiar program that they know well from their past. After all, Burton is an educator. Whatever people like myself may think of Burton, it’s hard to argue that Reading Rainbow was a positive in many kids’ lives, and helped a whole generation become more literate. Having that program accessible to today’s youth has to be a good thing, regardless of how many creepy close-ups Burton may take to promote it.