August 31, 2009


Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high,
Take a look, it's in a book — Reading Rainbow ...

Reading Rainbow -- the 3rd longest running show on PBS after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood -- is not returning after 26 years. Unless you have a few hundred thousand dollars to spare, the deal is done. Read the sad news here.
PBS is shifting focus to teach basic tools of reading, like phonics and spelling. In this rigid atmosphere of No Child Left Behind and teaching to the test, children's spirits seem to be left behind!
Mechanics won't matter if motivation is absent. If a child can't understand the "why" of loving to read, he's not going to care about the "how." Reading Rainbow shared and explored a love for children's books. It opened a door to the wonderful world of imagination and growth through literature.
That door, for me, was the one that led inside my local branch of the Philadelphia Public Library.
My mom took me to that library once a week until I was old enough to pedal my purple banana seat bicycle there myself and load my books into the flowered basket on the handlebars.
The magic that happened inside that library shaped my life.
I was friendless -- books provided companionship.
I was curious -- books provided answers.
I was bored -- books provided stimulation and ignited my imagination.
Our local library was a safe haven from some of the problems in the neighborhood in which I grew up.
Friends from Philadelphia just shared some discouraging news. Because of a budget crisis, the city might have to close the libraries. All of them. Not too long ago, they closed eleven branches to cut costs. Read more about this doomsday scenario here.
But there is some hope. There are some solutions.
This American Life aired a segment about a man, Geoffrey Canada, who wanted to make a big difference in Harlem. He discovered that research proved that if a child is spoken to and read to from the ages of zero to three, that child's brain will develop the pathways that lay the groundwork for success later in life. Canada created an 8-week program that includes a wonderful program called Baby College for expectant and new parents. Listen to the inspiring thirty minute segment here.
Rosemary Wells, acclaimed author of children's books, had the right idea when she created the program, Read to Your Bunny. Its simplicity and effectiveness are brilliant -- read to your child twenty minutes a day, no matter how tired or stressed you are. Twenty minutes to open up the world to your child. Learn more about the program and related research here.
Librarians understand how important language and the wonderful world of books are to the development of young minds and spirits. That's why they provide story hours and loads of books for parents to read to their children, among a treasure trove of other resources.
If we really don't want to leave any children behind, let's read to them from the moment they're born. Let's provide lots of wonderful libraries for them to explore. And let's leave Reading Rainbow on the air!


Anonymous said...


I wonder how we could encourage everyone who is a writer, was a writer, or aspires to be a writer to send $10 each to support the PBS reading program. If we knew how to harness the power of the Internet we could get it done. Where do we start?


Jill N. said...

Argggg! Reading Rainbow is one of my favorite shows! It's a shame that PBS is jumpin onto the "how" of reading bandwagon.

Jill N.

Sylvia said...

I'm in wholehearted agreement with your comments and outrage. How could PBS cave in to pressure to program for the test-taking. I would have thought they were too smart for that kind of narrow and shortsighted thinking.

I think Dan has a great idea. I bet if someone could start this rolling and contact the right person in PBS that enough people in this country would donate to let them save Reading Rainbow. I'd certainly give $10 if I knew they'd use it for that.