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Did Education Dept.'s Shift Help Kill PBS's 'Reading Rainbow'?

By Ed O'Keefe

The PBS reading show "Reading Rainbow" -- starring "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Roots" alum LeVar Burton -- ends its 26-year run on Friday. Its longevity was the third-longest for a public television children's show, beaten only by "Sesame Street" and "Mister Rogers Neighborhood."

LeVar Burton
Actor LeVar Burton, host of "Reading Rainbow" (Reuters)

(As a young child in the '80s, The Eye fondly recalls watching all three programs every weekday before switching over to "The Price is Right" later in the morning. But we digress...)

A Friday morning NPR report noted the show's conclusion and aired comments by John Grant, director of content at the show's home station, WNED in Buffalo. Producers were unable to secure the several hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights, Grant said.

Why? According to 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 [the Public Broadcasting Service], [the Corporation for Public Broadcasting] 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."

In the report, a PBS official acknowledged the shift in reading philosophy from "how do we get kids interested?" to a focus on phonics.

A spokesman for the Education Department did not return a request for comment or clarification. (If and when an answer arrives, we'll post it here.)

In the meantime, take a trip down Memory Lane and sing along with the show's theme song. Oh, and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read the follow-up item here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 28, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

This is a deplorable development; while teaching kids how to read is important, teaching kids to love to read is even more important. I'm the daughter of the manager of one of Fairfax County's public libraries and I watched Reading Rainbow every day as a kid. If you don't teach kids to love to read, teaching them how to read will not be enough. Too many Americans these days know how to read but claim not to like reading; instead, they melt their brains on television and video games.

Posted by: esajudita | August 28, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

What a terrible shame! This has to be the favorite TV show in our house right now.

Reading Rainbow is one of the few educational shows on TV that works for kids (reading or not) who are getting too grown up for preschool shows, but aren't yet ready to understand the storylines of the shows meant to appeal to tweens.

The other reason Reading Rainbow is a gem is that it's about *the real world*-- they go meet the people who run the trains, who study the animals, the kids who perform on stage, the people who make special effects. It's about how the world actually works. We need more educational TV like that.

In fact, while I think Dragon Tales, Wonderpets, etc are all wonderful shows, and even the insufferable-to-grownups Dora and Diego teach Spanish, they are all set in magical makebelieve worlds. Other than Caillou (and now Sid the Science Kid) are there any children's TV shows about the real world and how it works, where there are no magical talking creatures or magical powers?? Understand I am not against all this makebelieve, but shows like Reading Rainbow I believe are an important balance and teach kids more about the grownup world.

In this vein, does anyone remember the show "Big Blue Marble" from my childhood? It's theme song is so full of 70s optimism it is almost funny now, but it was basically a 1/2 an hour documentary where they followed the life of a child in a different city or country around the world. My children would love it just as much if it was on now.

Anyway, we will all miss Reading Rainbow.

Posted by: ljcboston | August 28, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Sure, it worked. So what choice was there but to cancel it?

Posted by: jckdoors | August 28, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry that this show has been canceled. I wholeheartedly agree with the first poster: knowing how to read is worthless if a person doesn't want to read.

Research shows fewer and fewer young Americans are reading for pleasure. Researchers have charted the rise of "aliteracy" for more than a decade. Check out this article, "
Aliteracy among College Students: Why Don't They Read" (ED410527) from the Education Resource Information Center's site. In fact, the NEH sounded an alarm about 5 years ago.

Canceling a show like Reading Rainbow seem ill-advised, but maybe reading isn't as important as we like to think.

Posted by: aoscruggs | August 28, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

That show still comes on?!!

Posted by: forgetthis | August 28, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

PBS has been moving away from older kids for years to target babies and toddlers. It's a continuing trend.

Posted by: hesaid | August 28, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

In one of my work areas, science education, we've had similar trouble with the "shift in focus." Science education does not formally teach children how to read, and so resources and instructional time were reduced under NCLB. Completely overlooking the notion that reading is a communication activity and students will benefit from using it to actually communicate -- gaining both the content knowledge, and the expertise in understanding the communication. Reading Rainbow suffers a double whammy: it's not only not teaching children "how" to read, it's about fiction. Heavens, why should we waste precious resources on things that aren't true?

Irony abounds.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 28, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Learning to LOVE to read is so important. The same goes for enjoying LEARNING for its own sake. I've heard Colin Powell advise that finding good professors who are passionate about what they're teaching is as important as the subject matter. Chalk it up to the fallout from a long stretch of bad decisions at the top.

Posted by: loved1 | August 28, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh no-- the end of "Reading Rainbow" broadcasts on PBS! I was so appalled at this news that I started my first-ever petition on the Care2 website, asking PBS to continue distributing the program. If you would be willing to sign, please visit http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/return-reading-rainbow-to-the-air. Thank you!

Posted by: annedean | August 28, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Shame on us all for letting this happen!

Posted by: foster2 | August 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Teach a child to love reading and you will have a strong reader; this new "philosophy" is a shame and a sham. I loved this show as a child and am sad to see it go, just as I have a new son who could have watched it and loved it as I did. I hope that I can do a good job teaching him how much fun reading is; Lord knows the schools aren't going to, as long as current policies remain in place.

Posted by: ppc5n | August 28, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure a desire to emphasize learning to read is necessarily a "bad decision at the top". However, reading is not a simple endeavor and preparing children to skillfully master all the many and varied skills and tasks required of highly competent readers who are also able to skillfully comprehend a variety of genres and texts goes far beyond spelling and phonics. Losing the Reading Rainbow is a sad thing for sure since the LOVE of reading and the desire to engage in the story is what this show did so well. This show, more than many others, helped the viewer make connections with the stories. This is a significant literary thinking skill foundational to all learning endeavors regardless of the discipline. After all,isn't this what educated people do? We make connections with what we read, write, and learn, not just in the language arts, but in all content areas and through all of life's endeavors. I somehow feel we are being shortchanged here as a viewing public. Does anyone else feel this way?

Posted by: TheWildMind | August 28, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

PBS, you guys have have just left another bunch of kids behind. Just like learning, you have to find the joy in it. Reading Rainbow was the perfect vehicle to teach kids how to enjoy learning, reading and developing their imagination into a working reality. It is more than phonics - it's the stories stupid.

Posted by: cymp65 | August 28, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I have two children who loved this program. However, if there's such a demand for the show from parents and their children then some commercial entity should pick it up. That's our system.

Posted by: c_e_daniel | August 28, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

It's bad enough that Sesame Street has been dumbed down to the point of imbecility and shows like The Magic School Bus are now on Discovery Kids (which around here we can't get unless we pay the extra money for digital cable) and Mr. Rogers isn't shown on PBS anymore, but now they're canceling Reading Rainbow too! There is very little educational television on that is also fun anymore, and that's just WRONG. What has this country come to where people have no problem shelling out money for celeb sleaze, so-called "reality" shows, and "family" shows that are tacky, rude, and show no manners or morals whatsoever, yet quality educational television for ALL children is being yanked because of lack of funding? There are times I seriously entertain the idea of canceling our cable service altogether and going solely with shows on VHS or DVD because that's the only place you can find them anymore! PBS, I'm very disappointed in your switches!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | August 28, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Remember: this is the same Bush Administration that censored a segment with two mothers.

Posted by: bs2004 | August 28, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This is what it looked like when Rome fell and Western Europe started sliding into the dark ages!!!

Posted by: riktiktik1 | August 28, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Is it any wonder that the president with the worst communication and reading skills in history and his administration are the ones to cause the demise of programs like this? Shame on them and shame on everyone who voted for Bush. The love of reading is what got me doing it again. I loved it as a kid, grew tired of it after college because I did too much of it, and now I read again for fun. It keeps the mind active as you grow older. Kids today do need to learn the skills of reading and reading comprehension, but they also have to learn that reading is not just for homework.

Posted by: peachy_8 | August 28, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't PBS have a focused pledge drive to preserve this wonderful program?

Posted by: bob5 | August 28, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

This is what it looked like when Rome fell and Western Europe started sliding into the dark ages!!!

With higher definition signal though.

Posted by: sean20 | August 28, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

This is a terrible decision just as it was to cancel "School House Rock".

Posted by: eholmes27 | August 28, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

This is a sad day. My kids grew up watching Reading Rainbow, and so many times after seeing an episode, we'd go to the library to look for the book that had been featured. Favorite books were usually found with great excitement under the Christmas tree, and were read over and over again - and we still have them.

Posted by: belladonna0425 | August 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I spent 34 years as an elementary school librarian. For 24 years of that, Reading Rainbow was one of the best educational tools at our (mine and the teaching staff) disposal to connect reading with real world events and concepts which is a primary reason that being able to read is so important. It connects us over time and distance in a way that allows time for thoughtful reflection. The loss of Reading Rainbow is a grievous one to our nation. I'm going to the president on this one!

Posted by: jmla | August 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to see it go, but if this means more money to programs teaching kids HOW to read, fine.

As far as Reading Rainbow teaching kids WHY to read, that is something parents and teachers should be doing.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | August 28, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

My children loved Reading Rainbow. I believe that it was one of the best shows on television. Children read because they hear stories read to them and want to do it for themselves. Spelling and phonics can only go so far. It is a love of reading that really makes the difference and that is what Reading Rainbow was all about.

Posted by: evelynsaenz | August 28, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Learning to read is about loving WORDS! Studies have proven that the success of a child's educational career starts with having a rich vocabulary by the age of 3. Someone remind Bitter_Bill where his love of the written word came from. If there is any proof of where the value of education is on a slippery slope, you're experiencing it right now. My love of reading came from watching my mother retire to her bedroom and closing the door to read; being a loner by nature, I imagined, traveled and lost myself in books -all kinds of books. My nephew has visited me for the past 5 years, and always knew that "Reading Rainbow" came on before we left for church. "Reading Rainbow" was NOT a failure, not on any level.

Posted by: mukazzi | August 28, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

It is just as important that kids learn to love reading . One of the most important things this show did was create the desire to learn to read. Before the skills can be taught, children need to learn to love reading and make it something they want to do.

Posted by: Tigger11566 | August 28, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

All the comments here are right on point.

Teaching how to read is just the first small step in a much larger process of learning. It is a love and appreciation of reading that truly inspires children to move on and do great things.

Of all the PBS shows, Reading Rainbow probably was my children's favorite [perhaps next to Wishbone for my son.]

My daughter graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, a school which employs the "great books" program, with a Bachelor's Degree. She went on to graduate from CUA Law School with a JD degree.

My son currently is enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville as an undergraduate.

Both were adamant fans of Reading Rainbow, and both have had, since they were old enough to read, a passion for books and reading.

At Christmas or on my birthday, what gifts do I receive from my children? Books-- because my children appreciate them as timeless and invaluable gifts.

I suppose, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and I suppose Reading Rainbow is no exception. However, if the reasons are as stated in this article, then that is truly unfortunate, and is yet another example of the "dumbing-down" of PBS children's programming.

You can teach phonics and basic reading skills until you are blue in the face, but unless you provide avenues that instill a love of learning and exploration through books, I submit you haven't really accomplished much.

Anyone can teach a parrot to speak. It is quite another thing to engage them in intelligent conversation.

My thoughts.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | August 28, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Where's the Reading Rainbow Tip Jar? I would donate to keep it on the air!

Posted by: brcmapgirl | August 28, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

This needs to be fixed. Write your Senators and Congressmen.

Posted by: mbmclaughlin | August 28, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I suppose this is why they resuscitated The Electric Company, except they completely bastardized it by writing in a contrived plot. I learned to read before I knew that you had to learn to read. I just watched Easy Reader and two faces in silhouette say "p" "lease" "please" over and over. Kids tv is completely ruined.

Posted by: auntiemare | August 28, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry they'll stop producing Reading Rainbow, and hope that our PBS station will keep showing reruns. There is so much new programming these days, much of it good, but the emphasis on phonics and words and spelling is getting very repetitive. Basically, most of the shows are now orienting themselves around the exact same themes of phonics, language. There is little narrative to be found. I think Reading Rainbow adds a now much-needed element of imagination and exploration to the PBS Kids lineup. Let's all write our PBS stations and make our voices heard!

Posted by: kedohio | August 28, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The philosophy of reading rainbow is the reason I have at least two hundred books in my collection and growing. I use to rush home to watch the show when I was a child in, and I remember the book recommendations were the first I would look for when my parents took me to he library. And that was the point, I knew how to read from school, but I sure as heck didn't red the NY Times to get my recommendations.

Posted by: bainst | August 28, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Ooh - I loved that show so sad :(

Posted by: rlj1 | August 28, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I love the show until WEDU ch.3 (Tampa Bay, Florida) pulled it start of the 2008/2009). Levar Burton pulled me into finding out about things that I would never thought of before, like what goes on behind the scenes of filming of a tv show or the saguro cactus plant of Arizona. The only good thing is that my county library system is starting to get Reading Rainbow DVDs in the system for checkout.

Posted by: startrekvoyager015 | August 28, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

What's the use of our children knowing the mechanics of reading if they don't WANT to read? A strong desire to read is the best way to learn and improve one's skil; at reading. This is a step backwards as far as I can see.

Posted by: calgirl1 | August 28, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I am so upset that this show will not continue! Reading Rainbow was so important to me when I was a child! I gained an ENJOYMENT for reading GOOD literature from the show! I watched this show every day from the time I was born until I graduated High School! LOL! Reading Rainbow did not try to focus on phonemic awareness or prereading skills! It simply taught kids that reading could be fun, and that reading could teach you about different things and that you can do anything if you use your imagination! I am a preschool teacher and former Reading Rainbow watcher and am deeply saddened that kids will no longer be able to enjoy this program.

Posted by: herbyj_01 | August 28, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I am too old to have benefited from Reading Rainbow, but I did watch Sesame Street with my younger brother and he picked up reading faster because of it.

I have friends who are beside themselves that their kids do not read (willingly), and thus read poorly for their age group.

I think that Reading World is healthy bridge between Green Eggs and Ham and Harry Potter.

Perhaps funding will come from some organization that wants to help build knowledge industries of America, for example, Apple or Microsoft or perhaps one of the big oil companies that realize tomorrow's engineers and oil field staff have to be comfortable about reading.

As Pres. Obama said, "yes, we can".

PS: I admit that my parents let my sister and me buy comic books with our allowance and that led to Hardy Boys' and Nancy Drew books and that begat Michener's books and both of us now read for enjoyment. Also, we did not have a television at our cottage and instead went 2-3 times per week to the local library. I believe it is important for kids to realize the enjoyment of the written word on the page coming alive while read on the bus or in a window seat on a cloudy November afternoon.

Posted by: Beprudent | August 28, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

We all accept this so easily....How can we let this happen? Reading Rainbow makes it through the dark years of 2001-2009, only to be cancelled now?

Is there nothing we can do to stop this?

Posted by: whoAmIreally | August 28, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

One problem in kids learning to read and learning why to read are the quality of books written.

When I was going (age 5+) up I lived at the library and I could check out any book. I was NOT limited to the first grade books when I was in first grade. I was reading books way above my grade level. Has anyone ever asked kids why they like to read the Harry Potter books but NOT much in the textbooks? That should be an eye opener!

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | August 28, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Reading Rainbow was an awsome show. I remember first watching it and then getting my parents to take me to the library so I could check out books. It's a shame we live in society where a program like this is cancelled but we still have "The Real World."

Posted by: BMACattack | August 28, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Reading Rainbow was just a way for busy professionals to feel righteous about parking their kids in front of the boob tube while they wandered off to make a phone call to their stock broker or therapist.

Posted by: greg3 | August 28, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

It is a shame that we are going to lose one of the BEST children's shows on PBS. Its a crying shame that it is being pulled. Mr Burton has been a welcome and long-time friend to all of my children and we've read many an excellent book together at his recommendation.

As for blaming The Bush Administration, I'll remind my colleagues that NCLB was written in conjuntion with and was endorsed wholeheartedly by none other than Sen. Edward Kennedy.

There's plenty of blame to go 'round.

Posted by: wvmama | August 28, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Mum of a tot, here. We review children's shows to find the ones that we think are worthy of daughter's time (because we have to keep her entertaiend while we make frequent calls to our stock broker and therapist -- see greg3 Aug 28 8:13 pm). So few are really worth it.

Let me tell you, phonics is really not that hard. The vast majority of kids "get" how to sound out letters early on. What is more difficult is learning how to interpret and talk about what you read; how to find the story line, how to describe what characters are feeling, predictin what will happen next, and so on.

I've seen a number of the phonics shows. Shows about phonics are incredibly BORING because, mostly, phonics is BORING. Sesame Street and Electric Company (the old-school versions) worked on phonics and other language mechanics just often enough and with the right amount of wit. But the real joy is in thinking about the 'stuff' of books and stories.

Sorry to hear RR is leaving. I was too old for the show, but my youngest sister, now 30, loved it. She's a pretty good reader and writer, too. :)

Posted by: Magoo1 | August 28, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Reading is an important skill to be used in understanding written directives from superiors. A LOVE of reading is a subversive trait that may lead to various forms of independent thought. The Bush administration was wise to distinguish a suspicious love of reading from a practical ability to respond to written commands.

Posted by: PyotrZ | August 28, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

What a poverty that our public television had to pick one or the other.

Posted by: hayesap8 | August 28, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

It's all about dumbing down to make people more malleable. There is a lot of momentum still for many of the terrible policies the Bush junta enacted. The thing about momentum is that if you have enough force you can meet it, slow it down, and reverse it. What would happen is there was a public outcry and people sent a few $ to the Reading Rainbow folks? A million or two people sending $2 each would solve the problem.

Posted by: mtnmanvt | August 29, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Last time I checked, Mr. Obama was president of the United States and was in charge of the Department of Education. In fact, as far as I know, he has been president for over eight months now. Last time I checked, Democrats had controlled for some time now the Congress, which writes the budgets and appropriates funding. The explanation placing blame on Bush seems to me partisan and tenuous at best.

I'm open to believing there is tie-in, but given Bush has been gone for over eight months now, the burden of proving such a tenuous allegation rests with those making such bold statements. Go ahead, give me more facts to show exactly how the Bush Administration, and not the Obama Administration, caused Reading Rainbow to go off the air. I'm willing to listen. Show me funding streams. Show me budgets. Show me why it is that the current powers that be could not have stepped in to save the show.

Don't believe everything you read in the news, because much of it has an angle. Now there is something children should be taught. Good old-fashioned critical thinking skills.

Posted by: Jamalc | August 29, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Just because George Bush can't speak an intelligent sentence or train of thought doesn't mean that NPR should structure a learn to read program just for Bush's education.

When will it end. Bush influencing anything intelligent like Reading Rainbow is like asking the fly to eat the fish. Arse backwards.

We want NPR to change their minds because Reading Rainbow is a wonderful program for kids. It stimulathes their minds and shows them how to be curious about reading and all the possibilities out there to be read. It's over Bush's head.

We enjoy learning of the reading possibilities in our family and despise the thought that NPR would cancel a program of quality.

Posted by: MissClarty | August 29, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

I was raised on PBS. When I was young, children's programming on my local affiliate (WGBH, PBS's shining star) was Sesame Street (twice a day), Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, the Electric Company (which was in reruns), and a lot of shows from TV Ontario.

I still watch PBS, but I really don't like what it has become. The PBS affiliate in my area (WETK Burlington, VT) shows Lawrence Welk reruns, a lot of 1970s Britcoms, and infomercials (especially Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, the old man who lectures wealthy seniors about money management, and the Brain Plasticity guy). Pledge time never ends. And now, Reading Rainbow is gone. Part of me wants to send a donation, hoping they will get more current programming. The rest of me wants to get cable.

Posted by: LizBetty | August 29, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

As a teacher, I am encouraged by the concern about the disappearance of Reading Rainbow.

For parents wanting to find quality educatioal television, Cyberchase (also on PBS) is fabulous! The 15 min. cartoon demonstrates problem solving skills (a lot of math) and then shows a real world application of the same skills for the last half of the show. Reading Rainbow also did something similiar.

Being able to read is an essential tool for the future which will require problem solving to a degree that we cannot imagine. Besides reading for enjoyment, Reading Rainbow demonstrated many of the ways reading can help us solve problems. Teaching why we read is an essential part of my school day, as it should be an essential part of educational television. Bring it back!

Posted by: metzx5 | August 29, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

I loved Reading Rainbow! I'm now in grad school (after doing much reading) and can't imagine kids growing up without such influences to read. Reading Rainbow, Wishbone (also now defunct) and other such shows were an incredible influence. Maybe I am ignorant of things coming up to replace them, but how does PBS teach phonics?

Posted by: devpsychsmith | August 29, 2009 3:17 AM | Report abuse

In 1983, when Reading Rainbow first aired, I was 27 years old. I had one young child at the time and soon had two more. Did they love the show? Yes, but I may have loved it even more. I suppose I started watching it because I was a mother, but I continued watching it WAY after my children were grown and out of house! (I also have a master's degree and am a professional member of the workforce.) This program is sweet and simple and stimulates everyone to the world around them - not just children. Whenever I happen to be home and it's on t.v., I make a point to watch it, and there's not a child in the house! There is something so pure about a show like this and children's books, in general, don't you agree? I'm attempting to point out that it's not only children who enjoy Reading Rainbow for the enchantment and enrichment, not to mention the pure charm of LeVar Burton. There must be more professionals, such as I, who adore this program...

Posted by: Wendy8 | August 29, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Once again, another great PBS program that started during Reagan era now ends. Think about it, we have a democrat president, full Senate and House support by democrats, and yet...

Those so-called 'dark times' that Liberals call the Reagan/Thatcher years spawned, indisputably the finest, richest and most diverse time in PBS history. Not to mention the most fund-raising, as well.

Remember television in those 'dark times'? The 80s? Remember how great it was? How many great shows were on network television? Remember how PBS offered up a host of British imports that we barely get a glimpse at now?

Remember 80s MTV when they actually played music videos rather than produce soft porn reality shows and girls gone wild ads? And remember the movies in the 80s?

Dark times? I think people are kidding themselves if they don't realize that THESE are the dark times, not the 80s, and not during Bush, either. But, sure, blame him for the demise of Reading Rainbow if it makes one feel better. But it's just not the truth, if that even matters any longer.

For the facts, read the education bill that Ted Kennedy labored over. It's not his fault either. The authors of the bill and the government pressure on schools to teach reading essentials - the ability to read - are not to blame.

PBS is to blame. The new tone of PBS, that is. The PBS of Reading Rainbow is gone. They very clearly could have kept this program on the air or made public it's possible demise if they wished to. They did not wish to. Funds would have been forthcoming in droves if they had. They chose to kill it.

As a teacher, I loved RR, as well as Sesame Street and so many other educational programs now defunct or dumbed down or pandering to special interests at the expense of quality and benefit.

We as a culture will suffer as long as we allow PBS and NPR to continue to pander to these special interests, like the Dept. of Education and other not-so-well-known entities that are changing the way our children learn and our culture grows.

Posted by: humbleradio | August 29, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Jamalc wrote

[Last time I checked, Mr. Obama was president of the United States and was in charge of the Department of Education. In fact, as far as I know, he has been president for over eight months now. Last time I checked, Democrats had controlled for some time now the Congress, which writes the budgets and appropriates funding. The explanation placing blame on Bush seems to me partisan and tenuous at best.]

Exactly. If people think Reading Rainbow is worth saving, then send your petitions to the CURRENT President, Barack Obama, who can change the Dept of Education's decision.

Complaining about the policies under the Bush administration is a waste of time.

Posted by: duane1061 | August 29, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Here's an idea for raising the money to re-fund the broadcast rights: see if the Obamas would be open to doing a "Backstage at the Whitehouse" Reading Rainbow special. I bet LeVar Burton would do it! And then, fund the rebroadcast rights to old Reading Ranbow episodes with broadcast or DVD sales from the special White House episode.

Michelle Obama loved being on Sesame Street, and given the ages of the Obama girls, they probably watch the show and would love to talk to LeVar.

Just a thought....

Posted by: ljcboston | August 29, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Ronald Reagan made one promise he never kept. I wish he had. He promised to shut down the U.S. Department of Education. Washington, D.C. is too powerful and too overpopulated with educated idiots to entrust with policy decisions concerning schooling. Whether liberal or conservative, the eggheads that set education policy in America know nothing about the realities of the classroom. Flawed as local control of public education may be, at least mistakes made by community school boards stay within the local community. They don't create national disasters like new math, forced busing, open plan schools, and whole language reading. If federal intervention in public education were ever to have worked, it would have worked by now. Washington, get your hands off our schools!

Posted by: pedagoguish | August 29, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

200 word comments do far less than a $200 pledge to PBS. But I guess that's as far as most of you are willing to go.

Posted by: kieran2001 | August 30, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't have time to read all the comments, but a search on this page for "evidence," "data," and "result" all came back empty. How about finding out whether Reading Rainbow actually works before complaining that it is losing funding? And yeah, I liked it too.

Posted by: Drew_Miller_Hates_IDs_That_Dont_Allow_Spaces | August 31, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

For years I enjoy watching Reading Rainbow. This is one of those shows that is educational as well as fun to watch - a show that uses the advantages of a medium such as television could offer in the most positive and fun way. I hope it's not true that we are losing Reading Rainbow. There are still so many good books we could feature on the show!

Posted by: heiki | August 31, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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