Monday, September 21, 2009

Reading Rainbow

Raise your hand if you are familiar with Reading Rainbow! If you aren't - where have you been?

When my brother and I were growing up, we used to watch this show religiously. (I think I was even 14 at the time, to be perfectly honest.) LeVar Burton was familiar to me as Geordi La Forge on one of my all time favorite television shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation (which we'll talk about some other time).

He's a bit more at ease on Reading Rainbow than on Star Trek: TNG (only because he doesn't have to be constantly worried about saving the ship and the universe simultaneously). In Reading Rainbow he is allowed the pleasure of going on field trips and highlighting information about the world, all surrounding a particular book title and without having to wear a uniform. The show is designed to develop a love of reading in younger children and, by default, a love of learning. It has to be one of the least objectionable television shows of all times! Furthermore, LeVar has been the host of the show for 25 years! (The PBS website doesn't look like it's been updated in at least a year but I discovered through Barbara that Reading Rainbow is no longer being produced.) Twenty-five years is a long time and the show has covered a lot of books in that time period! (For a complete list of books covered, click on their website for a book index HERE.)

Recently we discovered (much to my great, joy-jumping delight!) that our local library purchased the entire DVD series (as best I can tell). We have been having a hay day, bringing home 2 or 3 at a time. My son (age 3 next month!) sits in rapt attention as LeVar combs beaches, goes bowling, milks cows and learns about a variety of musical instruments. These shows are absolutely perfect for where we are right now. They are right on target for his attention span and quest for knowledge and so I'm still just in love as ever with this show!

To take this apart by episode for you (just in case you have not yet had the pleasure of an introduction), we recently watched Seashore Surprises which highlighted the book of the same title by Rose Wyler. In this episode, LeVar visits an island off the coast of Florida. He does a little beach combing, pointing out sea corral that has washed up, as well as noting the difference in variety of seashells. He explores plants and animals that live along the seashore and even meets up with Christy, a marine scientist, and the two of them net some small sea animals for quick observation. We got to see a seahorse, something akin to a puffer fish (although they didn't call it that?) and a variety of other creatures. Lastly, we watched the tide as the sun set over the island. Each episode, beside focusing on the main title, also offers suggestions for three other like-minded titles for your perusal. On the back of each DVD case, you can find out which titles are reviewed in case you'd like to grab those while you are at the library also. All of the information is very conveniently laid out so that you, as the parent and/or teacher, can make the most out of using Reading Rainbow as a guide and friend.

One of the things I appreciate the most is that LeVar never talks down to his audience. When he goes to a farm, or a bowling alley or what have you, he explains what he is seeing, how things work and what various process are for producing any variety of objects. He satisfies children's curiosity without dumming anything down. He speaks to his television audience very much in the same manner that we speak to Bookworm1 when we are explaining something to him face-to-face and so kiddo really learns from watching an episode. Following our excursion to the Florida Island, Bookworm1 asked to get out our collection of seashells so that he could look through them. We poked through the shells, identifying the ones that we had seen on the show, and learned the names of the others. (I had no idea that there were so many specifically named individual types of shells. But when a 2 year old wants to know what each one is called, you learn fast!)

Even though some of the episodes are now 25 years, I still find them to be very relevant. LeVar is still reading books we are familiar with (some of which have become classics now) and still visiting places and talking about things that young kids care about. I love this show. I have a great appreciation for it and highly recommend it. I'm thrilled our library is cluing in!


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Believe it or not, my girls and I just watched an episode of RR on DVD that goes along with our Japan study TODAY!

That's good stuff!

Barbara H. said...

I'm so glad the episodes are available on DVD. I think most of them are timeless in that the stories are classic and the information still relative and interesting.

Becky said...
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Stephanie Kay said...

They have the episodes on DVD?! I must look for that on my library's internet card catalog (or whatever they call it now)!!

I had no idea RR had been around 25 years. Yikes! That means I started watching it close to the beginning. Boy am I getting old! :)

(Ps. LOVED Star Trek: Next Generation!)

Veggiemomof2 said...

I loved this show! I grew up to be an avid reader too.

Rana said...

This is great. I used to watch with my sister when we were younger. I can't wait to show these to my kids.

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