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Reading Rainbow was an award-winning children's educational television series that originally aired from June of 1983 through November of 2006. Produced by Public Television, the series starred veteran actor LeVar Burton, who served as host to introduce each segment of the show. Every episode spotlighted a particular theme as it pertained to real life, similar to a field trip. For example, a show might portray an 1820's living history museum, and the theme of the episode would then feature historical children's fiction and nonfiction about that era. Another segment featured a children's book reading, narrated by a celebrity and typically presented with animated illustrations. The goal of Reading Rainbow was to encourage a love of reading and reading comprehension.

The final segment of the show Reading Rainbow was focused on book reviews. In this brief component, children offered personal summaries with an opinion on how they felt about the book they were recommending. Similar to an oral book report, Reading Rainbow reviews explained the plot to the audience in the presenting child's own language instead of using a script. Children of many different ages and backgrounds were filmed for this segment, which always began with host Burton's introduction of the theme and the words "but you don't have to take my word for it." This was to encourage viewers to find out for themselves at the library.

Though designed to appeal to elementary-age children, Reading Rainbow was entertainment in which even adults found enjoyment. Due to its quality, the show won an astounding twenty-six Emmys, a Peabody, and countless other broadcast awards. The formula the producers used was perfect for the series: Episode themes were neatly presented and engaging, while celebrity presentation of the featured story gave the feel of an intimate story reading. Book reviews were honest, brief, and at times amusing, and every episode ended with the encouragement of host LeVar Burton enthusiastically stating, "I'll see you next time!"

Reading Rainbow is a series that is currently running and has 12 seasons (164 episodes). The series first aired on January 1, 1983.

Where do I stream Reading Rainbow online? Reading Rainbow is available for streaming on PBS, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Reading Rainbow on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, iTunes online.

12 Seasons, 164 Episodes
January 1, 1983
Kids & Family
Cast: LeVar Burton
Watch Episodes
Clips & Extras

Reading Rainbow Full Episode Guide

  • Show Way traces the lineage of one family¢‚¬´s women who began creating quilts with secret maps to freedom during the years of slavery and continued in the generations beyond as a tribute to the past. Host LeVar Burton and his family discover some items from earlier relatives, and then we meet a grandmother who inspires her grandson, family members and others with her childhood memories of surviving the Holocaust during World War II.

  • Game Day, written by NFL superstar twin brothers Tiki and Ronde Barber, share the story of how, as youngsters, they learned that success is built on team effort. Follow as athletes train for, play and enjoy a variety of sports, and we learn that every player on a team has a special role in contributing to the success of the group. As Host LeVar Burton points out, the lessons learned in sports can help you achieve your goals.

  • I Lost My Tooth in Africa, written by a girl and illustrated by her father, tells the tale of a young girl who loses a tooth while visiting her father¢‚¬´s family in Africa. In the African tradition, she places the tooth under a gourd and in return gets two chickens from the Tooth Fairy. Host LeVar Burton explores with youngsters how things have changed for them as they¢‚¬´ve grown, and how taking care of our teeth is part of that process. Then it¢‚¬´s off to attend a Quinceanera -- a celebration for a 15-year-old Hispanic girl in honor of her transition into womanhood.

  • In addition to discussing accomplishing difficult tasks, LeVar profiles the New York children's theater group Tada, as they prepare auditions for their newest show. Richard Gear reads The Biggest Test in the Universe, a story about a grade school class having anxiety over an annual aptitude test.

  • As LeVar investigates types of communication, Freddie Prinze Jr. reads Beegu, the story of an alien who visits Earth while lost from its parents and befriends a group of young children who help Beegu contact her family.

  • Eliza Dushku reads a story about a girl attending private school who attempts to create her own unique style without breaking any of the school's strict dress code rules.

  • The series tackles a delicate subject of how some children must deal with a parent in prison. Alfre Woodard reads Visiting Day, a tale about a young girl preparing to visit her father in jail on his birthday, and how she and her grandmother get ready for the trip to the prison. Afterwards, LeVar visits a real family planning to see their father and husband in jail as he finishes his prison term for shooting at a man during an argument, and how they have to cope with the social stigma of having to explain an ex-convict.

  • LeVar visits the United Nations building to learn more about how different countries of the world try to work together. Naomi Judd reads Our Big Home, a poem about how everything in the world is connected to each other and how we all must work together to make it succeed.

  • LeVar profiles people who are considered "Everyday Heroes" for doing important jobs to provide services, like firefighters, doctors, police officers, nurses, and even jobs like lawyers, judges and teachers. Regina King and Ian Desdone read the story of Max, a boy born into a family of superheroes who hasn't shown any signs of having powers yet.

  • Levar takes us on a literary tour of the United States. From Hawaii to Maine and Montana to New York, each state is different in its own way.

  • Levar takes us on a literary tour of the United States. From Hawaii to Maine and Montana to New York, each state is different in its own way.

Most Popular Reading Rainbow Episodes

Reading Rainbow News

Seth McFarlane Will Match Donations to the 'Reading Rainbow' Kickstarter

Utilizing the successful history of donation site Kickstarter, actor LeVar Burton has been campaigning to bring back childhood educational favorite, "Reading Rainbow," and now "Family Guy" creator Seth McFarlane has stepped in to help bring the web series to underfunded classrooms.

'Reading Rainbow' Might Come Back, Thanks to Kickstarter

We'll wait a moment for you to sing the theme song. Go ahead. "Reading Rainbow" might soon find its way back into children's lives, if creator and host LeVar Burton has anything to say about it. Burton is heading up a Kickstarter campaign in an attempt to revive the canceled educational show in a new form. However, we're probably not going to see a new run of "Reading Rainbow" episodes on PBS, even if the Kickstarter campaign succeeds.

Reading Rainbow Video Clips & Extras

Pete Seeger Reads 'Abiyoyo' on Reading Rainbow Clip (06:50) Fairytales - Classic Reading Rainbow Clip (05:15) Changes - Classic Reading Rainbow Clip (06:09)