Bad things always happen on my birthday. Today was no exception.

Well it isn't bad, as in someone DIED. Or entirely forgot me. And I've had years like that for sure.

But a part of my childhood came to a close today. Reading Rainbow aired it's final show. The thought of it not being a part of my children's lives is sad to me. It feels like a death for some reason. No seriously. I feel like crying. Isn't that insane? I feel a little silly, but it can't be helped. I *loved* this show. I love LeVar Burton. I loved the books and finding my own copy of a Reading Rainbow book on the shelf in my library just felt like finding a treasure to me!

I know that there will always be reruns, and you can probably even own the show on DVD or something. But after 26 just seems so sad that it is ending.

The show aired first in 1983. I was 7 years old. The age of my daughter now. I watched it every chance I had. I watched it in high school. It taught me to notice the author and the illustrator. It taught me to observe the art that makes up the pages of childrens books and to look further into the story, to listen and understand. It taught me to not judge a book by its cover but to look within.

From NPR: Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Teaching kids HOW to read is vital. I agree. But teaching them WHY you should read? So important. I was fortunate to grow up in a home full of books, and two parents who read to me often and willingly. I am a self proclaimed book worm, I even spent my birthday morning reading in my jammies! What a treat. My kids are as fortunate. They have books coming out their ears, their parents both read to them often, and Kira loves to read to Evan. We have fostered a love of reading and instilled the "Why" of "Because you CAN!" along with all the million other reasons for reading.

But how many children out there aren't given this opportunity at home? How many children learned a love of books from LeVar Burton and his brilliant show and love of children and books?

The statistics for literacy in our country are appalling.

Here are just a few:

# Only 45 percent of fourth graders report that they read for fun on a daily basis. Among eighth graders, only 19 percent report daily reading for fun. (NCES, 2003).

# Fourth-graders who reported daily reading for fun scored higher on the NAEP reading test than peers who reported less reading for fun (NCES, 2003).

# Children who score at the 90th percentile on a reading test spent five times as many minutes per day reading books as children at the 50th percentile (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988).

So as something wonderful comes to an end, (on my birthday of all days! Geesh!) I want to give a huge shout out to LeVar Burton. I know he'll never read this, but even as a die hard Star Trek NG fan, I'll never forget his work with Reading Rainbow and how much a part of my childhood it was. Thanks for 26 years of teaching children WHY they should read. Well done my friend. And best wishes to you on your future endeavors!


Marlene said...

Very well written honey. I'm so sorry it is going off the air too.

Heidi said...

Thanks mom. Shawn just shook his head. He just doesn't understand!