Monday, June 24, 2013

Reading Rainbow - Sacramento Bee: LeVar Burton celebrates success

Source: Sacramento Bee [follow link for complete article]

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SACRAMENTO BEE: LeVar Burton celebrates success of 'Reading Rainbow' 2.0

By Kristopher Rivera
Jun. 24, 2013

The Public Broadcasting Service may have pulled the plug on "Reading Rainbow" in 2009, but host and former Sacramento resident LeVar Burton wasn't about to quit encouraging kids to pick up books.

Instead, he began adapting the classic children's TV show to the digital age.

"We started immediately thinking, 'What would "Reading Rainbow" today be? What would "Reading Rainbow 2.0" be?' " said Burton, 56. "And that was the beginning of what became the 'Reading Rainbow' app. That's what got it all started."

"Reading Rainbow," which debuted in 1983, celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. And according to Burton, the future of "Rainbow" has never been brighter.

Co-founding RRKidz with veteran entertainment producer Mark Wolfe, Burton and his company secured the "Reading Rainbow" rights in 2011. RRKidz released the "Reading Rainbow" app for Apple last year. The app debuted on the Kindle Fire three weeks ago.

The app is No. 1 in the educational category on Kindle and remains in the top five on iTunes. It can be purchased for $10 a month or $29.99 for six months...

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... Education plays a large role for Burton and his family. His mother, older sister, son and two nieces all work in education.

"It's like a family business," said Burton, known for his acting roles on the TV miniseries "Roots" as well as the series "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Burton's mother worked as a high school English teacher in Missouri. She later moved from the Midwest with her three children to Sacramento and started a second career with the Sacramento County welfare department.

Burton attended several Catholic schools in the Sacramento area.

"One reason my mother had her eye on Sacramento as a place where she wanted to raise her children was because of the quality educational system in Sacramento at that time," Burton said.

As a child, Burton was an active reader. The bookmobile coming through his neighborhood was a big deal, Burton said.

Now he offers a similar, updated experience. The books aren't arriving on four wheels – they're reaching kids via tablet computers.

"I'm working harder than I've ever worked, and having more fun than I ever have," Burton said.

"I really love what we're doing. I'm really proud of what we're doing. Our mission is quite simple: We're looking to change the world one children's book at a time."

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