Sunday, June 9, 2013

Reading Rainbow Was Right!

LeVar Burton workin' the cheese factor!

Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high
Take a look
It's in a book
A Reading Rainbow

I can go anywhere
Friends to know
And ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow

I can be anything
Take a look
It's in a book
A Reading Rainbow
A Reading Rainbow

I'm going to admit something that may shock and bewilder some of you:  I loved Reading Rainbow when I was a kid!

Oh, yes! I hung out with the Captain!
I know this might bewilder some of you because, when looking back on it now, there really was quite the cheese factor going on with those shows and LeVar Burton's overly bright smile. And some of you might be too young to even know what the hell I'm even talking about when it comes to Reading Rainbow. I grew up in a time and place where not one kid I went to school with had cable or could afford one of those giant satellite dishes in the 80s. To add insult to injury, our t.v. couldn't even get FOX on the tuner either, so we were stuck with the three local channels and PBS. I grew to love PBS. I also grew to love shows like 3-2-1 Contact, Captain Kangaroo (cue laughter), and Reading Rainbow. Oh, and I watched a lot of After School Specials, you know the after school movies where kids were dealing with particularly difficult subjects like cheating and smoking in the girls' room.

But there was something so fascinating about Reading Rainbow that drew me in, and I think it had to do with the fact that every week the lovely LeVar took kids on a brand new journey into brand new books. The show helped open doors to books for me, even after my family was banned from the local library because I had a few rogue siblings who failed to return books. (One turned up eight years later...Not the sibling, but the book. Although...)

For those of you out there who don't know a thing about Reading Rainbow, well, allow me to enlighten you. It was a show where each episode centered on a new book or theme from children's literature. Sometimes the audience would be taken on a fantasy adventure with dragons, princesses and knights in shining armor. Other times we'd go on an underwater adventure, encountering terrifying sharks and learning the names of tropical fish. There were mysteries, mountains to climb, songs to sing along with, and children taking their own journeys right in the pages of a book. It was a place I grew to know and love, an adventure I always looked forward to, because I was never sure what would happen or where it would end. It planted the seed of joyful reading within me and never has that seed been snatched by the wind, scorched by the sun, or eaten by a bug. That seed has grown, and I love reading just as much today as I did then.

But do you know exactly why I love reading?

Because I learned through Reading Rainbow that there isn't only one door we walk through to find something exciting. There are many doors. Behind those doors are the different genres we begin to learn and understand as adults. We find the stories that excite us the most, the ones that make our hearts pound faster, the ones that bring us to tears. They come in a rainbow of story lines and characters. But, unfortunately, too many adults soon become stagnant when it comes to literature.

What exactly do I mean by this?

As writers, we find our niche, our place that makes us happy when it comes to writing, and that's just fine. But then something else happens. We end up staying put in that one place. For instance, the fantasy writer tends to get stuck in fantasy, always writing in the genre, always reading in the genre, always looking for a place to belong with other fantasy writers. Or the romance writer looking for others who live and breath the romance world. This is true for any genre.

We forget about the rainbow.

We forget that there are other doors, that there is another world beyond our chosen genre. We get stuck, and thus, we begin to lose connections. We begin to gravitate to our own little circles, scorning those who dare compare what we write or love to read to other works outside our chosen genre. The circle we've created becomes our comfort zone, and why would one want to leave such comfort? Because we all need to grow when it comes to our writing skills. When we, as writers, are told to read extensively in a variety of genres, that's not just a suggestion. That's a rule to follow.

I've seen far too many blogs that circle around one thing and one thing only. That's understandable to a point, because we all want to share what we love. But we have to remain relevant in the eyes of some other writer trying to make connections and trying to understand this writing gig. The writing world soon becomes a clicky place for those trying to break in and make friends. We have to remember not to shun. We have to remember that reading and the enjoyment of writing can be accessed through many doors, not just one.

We need to remember the rainbow.


  1. I kind of missed Reading Rainbow. You said readers may be too young to know about it, but I'm on the other side: RR ran from '83 to 2006, so I really only came across RR when I was babysitting.

    "When we, as writers, are told to read extensively in a variety of genres, that's not just a suggestion. That's a rule to follow."

    So true! I'd take your point even further and say people get too comfortable with echo chambers of almost any sort: political, spiritual, culinary, musical, whatever. We find what works with us and stop exploring. As you say, it hurts us intellectually whenever we do this. Not only does it hurt us artistically (and I definitely agree with you there) to be too cloistered, but it appears to age people rapidly. If you want to stay youthful and creative, you have got to get out of your comfort zone. My comfort zone is literary fiction and YA, but I try to read sci-fi, fantasy, and thrillers from time to time, if they've been recommended to me. I've even bought — and read — a few mysteries!

    You are really good about genre-hopping. I've never met anyone who reads as broadly as you do.

  2. I never watched this show, but I love the idea of it! I wish they would "remake" it minus the cheese factor you mention (and I can see in the pictures!) Reminds me of the Latin America kid shows I saw in my childhood (I thought only we had low budgets, ha!)

    "We need to remember the rainbow." I love this!

    I agree that sticking to just one genre can be very limiting. I tend to gravitate toward fiction more than non-fiction, but I rarely read genre fiction anymore (I did in my twenties, when I first started reading in English. Lots of romances and Sydney Sheldon, ha!) Now I like mainstream literature above all, but I have read some YA recently (to understand why it's so popular now!) Now I'm looking forward to reading the books Steph recommended (I have them all downloaded and ready for the plane!)

  3. Any kid's show not trying to sell a toy is okay with me.


  4. I got a little behind this last week and forgot to stop by and respond to the comments. I do want to share a link I just came across today. Reading Rainbow is celebrating it's 30th anniversary (Yes, we are all that old!) and there was an interview up with LeVar Burton. Still cheesy, but still fun!


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