Farewell, Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow has its last episode today (after 26 years!), and NPR did a story on it. I think what’s interesting to note is that funding is shifting more toward TV shows that teach kids how to read rather than shows that give kids new books to read. I, personally, think that’s a crying shame.

I didn’t really watch Reading Rainbow on purpose as a kid, because I was generally well above the reading level of the books on the show. But part of the reason I read so well is because I read. A lot. I would regularly grab 10 books every time my mother took me to the library and have them read in a week or less. Did I grab so many books because someone once taught me phonics? Heck no!

I read then, and read now, because someone once gave me a love of reading. My teachers and my librarians said, “You should read these Baby-sitter’s Club books! Or how about some Bruce Coville? Oh, I bet you’d love Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!” And I did. And I read them all, because they were good. And then those teachers and librarians looked at what I was reading and suggested similar but more difficult books. And I never stopped reading.

My 20-year-old brother hated reading until my grandmother gave him the first three Harry Potter books. Now he reads epic fantasy, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at! My 10-year-old brother has had to deal with all of the ridiculous Ohio achievement testing and teachers having to teach to these tests since he started school, and gets poor marks on the reading sections because he reads lower than his grade level. But he’s already given me his birthday and Christmas list of books I should buy him, so I think he’s going to turn out better than the good readers in his class who don’t want to read.

I was pondering taking some youth services courses for my library science degree, but this article, among other things, is really making that decision seem like an excellent one.

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2 thoughts on “Farewell, Reading Rainbow

  1. Mary says:

    I watched that show allllll the time, even though my reading habits were considerably more like yours with the wearing out the children's section and everything. This may have also had something to do with me not having cable ever? But I hate that they've switched the focus of these types of programs because I feel like Sesame Street always filled that niche for us, and the fact that the rest of these programs weren't teaching us how to read but about innumerable other things only makes us remember them more fondly.

  2. Alison says:

    I know! I loved me some Sesame Street, and I saw a newer episode a few weeks ago and it was definitely doing the “teach kids how to recognize letters and how they form words” thing just fine!

    I hope that in a year or two some exec will be going, “Oh, man, we should totally have never ended Reading Rainbow,” and that they either bring it back or start a similar new show.

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