LeVar Burton: Building ‘The Next Generation’ Of Readers
Actor, director, producer and author LeVar Burton has done a lot in his career. From playing the iconic “Kunta Kinte” in the TV series Roots or being cast as a Lieutenant on the long-running Star Trek: The Next Generation, Burton is most proud of Reading Rainbow, a remarkable show that encouraged children to read–and did so very well. He was host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow from 1983 to 2009, when the show won more than 200 broadcast awards, including a Peabody and 26 Emmys.
Today, Reading Rainbow is more popular than ever. Since copurchasing the rights to the franchise after the show’s cancellation in 2009, Burton, 57, has been on a mission to make it bigger and better in the digital space.
Two years ago, he and his business partner Mark Wolfe re-imagined the TV show as a tablet app, which has since been downloaded more than a million times. Now, they’re creating a Web version.
In May 2014, to raise capital to build it and to get children and their families excited about books again, the pair turned to the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. In a mere 11 hours they met their $1 million goal. At press time they were only about a million short of their new $5 million target. “Every day of the first three days of the Kickstarter,” marvels Burton, “we raised a million dollars.”