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A Follow-Up on 'Reading Rainbow'

By Ed O'Keefe

"Reading Rainbow" host LeVar Burton and some former cast members. The PBS classic stopped airing last week.

Never in The Eye's wildest dreams did he anticipate the response generated by news of the demise of "Reading Rainbow." As this space reported last week, the third-longest children's television program in PBS history stopped airing on member stations last week after 25 years on the air. A mix of low ratings and insufficient funding to pay for the production license sealed the show's fate (and perhaps the career of LeVar Burton?).

Some, but not all of the show's funding came courtesy of the Education Department's Ready to Learn grant program. After several requests for comment and clarification, Education Department spokeswoman Elaine Quesinberry said the program provides funding for the development, production and distribution of television programming for preschool or elementary school-aged children. It also provides funds for DVDs, workbooks or other events that promote reading.

"Rainbow" producers suggested last week that a shift in reading policy during the Bush era meant the show's focus on the importance of reading lost out to programs that actually taught children how to read.

The department most recently distributed grants in 2005 and gave most of the money to programs targeting low-income children ages 2-8. The PBS affiliate in Chicago and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting earned funding for a combined seven productions and it provided money for new seasons of "Between the Lions" and "Sesame Street."

Grants will be distributed again in 2010 and the department will be looking for ways to reach young children through new media platforms, Quesinberry said.

In the meantime, enjoy your "Reading Rainbow" repeats on DVD or YouTube.

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 3, 2009; 5:25 PM ET
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