The classic children’s educational show Reading Rainbow is officially returning, but without LeVar Burton as host. This new version is being called Reading Rainbow Live and will feature a “diverse, talented, and comedic troupe of young performers” sharing hosting duties. Executive producer Steven Beer says the revival was developed as a “life-saver” in response to parents’ struggles with balancing remote schooling and other activities during the pandemic.
“We know it was a tough pandemic for parents, for caregivers, for teachers. We wanted to make sure that we have kids engaging with books and we’re going to use movement and music to engage kids in learning. And we really want kids to see themselves in the books that we’re choosing, and we’re going to use diverse creators, authors, illustrators, settings,” creative director Amy Guglielmo said, per CBS News. “We really want kids and viewers to see themselves on this show. We think the rainbow, this fun and diverse ensemble cast, will allow children to just identify with these hosts, and it’s just a totally new experience and it’s truly an experience.”
Modern technology allows for Reading Rainbow Live to be more immersive than the previous incarnation of the series. A news release notes: “Whether they are asking questions of a cast member, following along to a dance routine, or being rewarded for answering a question correctly, viewers will be motivated to participate, and parents will be gratified knowing that their children are being entertained and intellectually stimulated.”
While we have new hosts on board, Reading Rainbow Live will share some similarities with the previous version. It is sticking with the 25-minute episode structure to educate young viewers through music, field trips, cultural explorations, and a book of the day. What’s new is the ability to engage with the live show through a virtual platform. You can read the official description for the series below.
“Using the interactive virtual platform Looped, audience members will have the chance to engage, play games, and even have an opportunity to be featured ‘on stage’ during each episode of ‘Reading Rainbow Live.’ Whether they are asking questions of a cast member, following along to a dance routine, or being rewarded for answering a question correctly, viewers will be motivated to participate, and parents will be gratified knowing that their children are being entertained and intellectually stimulated. Episodes of Reading Rainbow Live will be available to stream after the live event is complete, so children can enjoy each episode whether or not they participated in the original broadcast.”
Originally, Reading Rainbow aired on PBS from 1983-2006. LeVar Burton had hosted the series and had unsuccessfully tried to revive the series in recent years. He has since set his sights on hosting a game show, as he’s attached to a Trivial Pursuit game show after his Jeopardy! plans didn’t work out. A documentary about Reading Rainbow with Burton hosting is also in the works.
Reading Rainbow Live is created by Steven Beer who executive produces with James P. Axiotis. Mark Harris of Ohana Pictures produces. Reading Rainbow Live will launch in early 2022.
Featuring archival footage and new interviews with host LeVar Burton, Butterfly in the Sky celebrates the legacy of the hit PBS series Reading Rainbow.
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