Last week as part of my new role as a National Geographic Kids insider, I participated in an exclusive conference call with LeVar Burton to learn more about how this famous actor, producer and educational advocate is moving his passion for reading and children’s education into the digital world.
Known for his role as the star and executive producer of The Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton was in Washington DC to receive the Common Sense Social Media Award at the Kennedy Center and to meet with staff at National Geographic who have partnered with LeVar to provide their wonderful books for LeVar’s new Reading Rainbow App for kids. We had a half an hour to talk about why LeVar is so passionate about reading and how his new digital products can help generations to come.
For those of you who don’t know LeVar Burton, let me give you some background. LeVar began his career in acting at the young age of twenty staring in the 1977 award-winning television series Roots. Roots was widely successful and was only the beginning in his fabulous career ahead. Although LeVar may be most known for his role as Lieutenant Geordi La Forge in the hit 1986 TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, perhaps LeVar has made the most impact in the world by staring in and producing The Reading Rainbow.
The Reading Rainbow was an extremely popular American children’s television series that aired on PBS for over 26 years (from 1983 to 2006) and inspired generations of children to read. Although I never watched it as a child (I was already 12 by the time the show began on TV), my children watched it when they were little and I always loved the show. The widely acclaimed Reading Rainbow won countless awards and Burton himself brought home 12 Emmys as actor and producer of the show.
Chatting with LeVar we learned what inspired him to become a lifelong advocate for reading and education. LeVar said there was one real inspiration in his life. His mother. She read to him, in front of him and also taught him how to read. LeVar felt it was really important that his mother read her own books all the time. She instilled her love of reading in him as a young boy and that made all the difference.
After the series Reading Rainbow ended, LeVar wanted to take his passion for reading and children’s education to the next level. Jumping on the technology bandwagon, LeVar came up with the idea of creating the Reading Rainbow App for kids. As the world and our children are moving more digital and products are becoming more technology-driven, making the Reading Rainbow app made a lot of sense.
LeVar believes strongly that if you want to reach kids today, you need to be offering your products on a mobile device. Of course there are pros and cons of moving to a digital platform yet LeVar feels the pros greatly outweigh the cons. The biggest pro besides saving trees is accessibility. 72,000 books a week are being read by kids in the app. This is getting more and more children to read, and someday LeVar hopes to reach children around the globe.
I couldn’t agree more with LeVar’s thinking. What an amazing opportunity to get more children around the world learning and receiving an education. As LeVar says. “Change the world, one book at a time“. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.
Want to learn more?
Check out this interview of LeVar discussing his latest venture, the Reading Rainbow app for kids by clicking here.
Download the RRKidz App here. Note: The app is free but the books come on a subscription basis. Check out site for details.