It would be pretty easy for actor LeVar Burton to coast through the remainder of life taking only acting gigs he likes and getting showered with adoration from Geordi La Forge fans on the Star Trek convention circuit.
Instead, Burton is taking the noble path by trying to launch a new Reading Rainbow website with the goal of helping more children learn how to read. As the former host of the now canceled PBS children’s show, he’s got a pretty good shot of making a big impact, too — starting with a Kickstarter campaign that launched today.
In fact, the campaign has already exceeded its $1 million goal. The total funding is currently at over $1,100,000 from nearly 25,000 backers at the time of publication.
The campaign is offering an extensive list of rewards, including a free month of access to the Reading Rainbow app, signed copies of Burton’s new children’s book, tickets to a live Reading Rainbow show, and even a slew of Star Trek-related items. (If I had $10,000, I would totally snap up that Ultimate Visor Package, as shown in the image to the right.) But rewards aside, a quick scan of the backer comments from the Kickstarter campaign page will show you how passionate people feel about helping further Burton’s cause.
The money from the campaign will allow Burton and team to relaunch the Reading Rainbow website and provide free access to hundreds of books and video field trips. It’ll also bring those same materials to 1,500 classrooms for free.
This isn’t the first time Burton has attempted to resurrect Reading Rainbow for the purpose of fighting illiteracy. He first launched an iPad app two years ago that let you subscribe to gain access to new content for $10 per month. (And last year, VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell even had a chance to do a video interview with Burton in which he explained his motivation for relaunching Reading Rainbow.)
However, this time around he’s shifting his strategy beyond tablets and onto the dying medium of desktops.
First, not all families have access to tablets. Our goal is to cultivate a love of reading in all children, not just those that have tablets. To reach kids everywhere, we need to be everywhere: We need to be on the web.
Second, a resounding number of teachers have told me that they want Reading Rainbow in their classrooms, where they know it can make a difference. We will provide it, along with the tools that teachers need, including teacher guides, leveling, and dashboards. And in disadvantaged classrooms, we’ll provide it for free.
Check out Burton’s Kickstarter campaign video pitch below for more information about the new Reading Rainbow website.