On this day in 1983, a new show called Reading Rainbow hit the airwaves. Airing on PBS, the show would air until 2006 and go on to win a Peabody Award, and more than 2 dozen Emmy awards…. but that’s not why I’m writing this piece today.
Growing up, I was the lone reader in my immediate family. I loved reading so intensely and so passionately that when I was around 8 and I didn’t have anything else to read, I read through the entire set of encyclopedias. Although I was never, ever discouraged from reading, there was also no one in my household who modeled the behavior as a pass time; no one to introduce me to new worlds by saying “I liked this, why don’t you give it a try”.
Cripplingly shy as a child, I had few friends in real life and those I did have didn’t generally share my enthusiasm for books, and especially sci-fi and fantasy books. And then I discovered Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton became my friend who loved to read just as much as I did. Even long after I probably would have been considered to have “outgrown” the show, I still watched.
Would I have continued reading and gone on to become an author as I have today without Reading Rainbow? Maybe. But I’m glad I didn’t have to. I’m glad that I had my tv friend who would share new books with me, saying “I liked this, why don’t you give it a try”.
One of the few disappointments I had with regard to Emerald City ComiCon this year was that LeVar had to back out of his appearance. I wanted so badly to meet him.to thank him for the impact he had on the life of a young girl who loved
I wanted to take the time to thank him for the impact he had on the life of a young girl who loved books but had no one to lead by example until RR came along. I wanted to tell him how much being able to think of him as “my friend who loves to read” meant to me. I wanted to try to convey to him the depth of my gratitude to him for giving so freely of his passion for reading.
I wanted to… but I’m not sure that I could have done so without tears. Indeed, even as I type this post, I need to pause occasionally to dry my eyes.
Maybe it seems silly to some that I would allow something as simple as a children’s tv show impact me so deeply. Frankly, I don’t care. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Reading Rainbow and I’m incredibly happy that with the overwhelming success of LeVar’s recent Kickstarter that other children will get to have him as their friend who loves to read too.
I’m going to stop rambling now, but I have one last thing to say:
Thank you, LeVar. Thank you for being my friend who loves to read. Thank you for encouraging me to try new stories and to discover new voices. Thank you for helping to instill a deep, abiding, and passionate love of the written word. I may have gotten here without you in time, but it would have been a harder and far lonelier road indeed.