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11 Educational Facts About Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow/Facebook
Reading Rainbow/Facebook

After 26 years of encouraging kids to read simply for the fun of it, Reading Rainbow quietly left the airwaves in 2009. But thanks to host LeVar Burton and the ubiquity of streaming video, the series is making a comeback—both in its original form (beginning today on Netflix) and to a computer, cell phone, or video game console near you. But you don’t have to take our word for it …

1. WHEN READING RAINBOW ENDED ITS 26-YEAR-RUN, IT WAS THE THIRD LONGEST-RUNNING CHILDREN’S SHOW IN PBS HISTORY.

Sesame Street beat it, of course, followed by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

2. THE SHOW ENDED BECAUSE OF MONEY.

No one wanted to cough up what amounted to nearly half a million dollars to renew the broadcast rights.

3. THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT ALSO PLAYED A PART.

When asked about the reasons behind the original series’ cancelation by Rolling Stone, Burton said that “We were a victim of No Child Left Behind, in that the shift in the governmental policy made a choice between teaching kids how to read and fostering a love of reading. And teaching kids how to read was the direction that No Child Left Behind mandated. We have never been about the rudiments of reading, so we were left on the minus side of that equation.”

4. BURTON OWNS THE RIGHTS TO THE SERIES.

Knowing that there were many other avenues that Reading Rainbow could explore, Burton purchased the rights to the series following its cancelation, and launched a mobile app that introduced the show to a whole new generation.

5. THE LIST OF CELEBRITIES WHO HAVE APPEARED ON READING RAINBOW IS AN ECLECTIC ONE.

YouTube

And that’s putting it mildly. From Maya Angelou to Flavor Flav, Reading Rainbow has welcomed more than 100 guest stars to the show, many of them as readers. Julia Child, Patrick Stewart, Run D-M-C, Kermit the Frog, Jane Goodall, Richard Gere, Peter Falk, Ossie Davis, Jeff Bridges, Jason Alexander, Marv Albert, Ruby Dee, James Earl Jones, and Susan Sarandon are just a few of them.

6. BURTON HOSTED READING RAINBOW AT THE SAME TIME HE WAS ON STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

Which explains why the kids’ show was privy to some exclusive Star Trek bloopers.

7. BURTON CREDITS HIS MOM FOR HIS LOVE OF READING.

Burton has said that having an English teacher for a mother meant that “reading was not optional” when he was a kid. “At home we always saw my mother reading for pleasure as well. I think that’s key. It’s a real key driver for behavior in young children: if we see our parents doing things that they enjoy doing, then we’re more apt to try them and check them out.”

8. THERE ARE TWO VERSIONS OF THE THEME SONG.

Chaka Khan recorded a version of the theme song that was used beginning in 1999, but it’s the version by Broadway star Tina Fabrique that probably gets stuck in your head. (Take a listen above and see.)

9. A NEW VERSION OF READING RAINBOW IS ON THE HORIZON.

All the way back in March of 2010, Burton rather mysteriously tweeted that he was working on Reading Rainbow 2.0. Last year, fans of the show finally understood what he meant when he launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $1 million to produce a new batch of interactive books and video field trips.

10. THE CAMPAIGN BECAME ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL IN KICKSTARTER HISTORY.

Launched on May 28, 2014, the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign hit its initial goal of $1 million in just 24 hours. By the time it closed on July 2, 2014, $5.41 million had been pledged, making it one of the crowdfunding site’s most successful campaigns, and raising enough to bring Reading Rainbow to more than 100,000 classrooms.

11. PETER GRIFFIN HELPED MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Among Reading Rainbow’s biggest supporters is Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who in late June of 2014 promised to match the donation of everyone who pledged to Burton’s Kickstarter campaign in order to help it surpass its reach goal of $5 million.

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Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information
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If you're trying to commit something to memory, you shouldn't just read the same flashcard over and over. You should read it aloud, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports. The new research builds on previous work on the so-called production effect by Waterloo psychologist Colin MacLeod, who is also one of the current paper's authors.  

The current study tested 95 college students over the course of two semesters, asking them to remember as many words as possible from a list of 160 nouns. At one session, they read a list of words into a microphone, then returned two weeks later for a follow-up. In some situations, the participants read the words presented to them aloud, while in others, they either heard their own recorded voice played back to them, heard recordings of others reading the words, or read the words silently to themselves. Afterward, they were tested to see how much they remembered from the list.

The participants remembered more words if they had read them aloud compared to all other conditions, even the one where people heard their own voices reading the words. However, hearing your own voice on its own does seem to have some effect: it was a better memory tool for participants than hearing someone else speak, perhaps because people are good at remembering things that involve them. (Or maybe, the researchers suggest, it's just because people find it so bizarre to hear their own recorded voice that it becomes a salient memory.)

The findings "suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component," the researchers write. "This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember."

The message is loud and clear: If you want to remember, you should both read it and speak it aloud.

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The Brooklyn Public Library is Now Home to a Tiny Mollusk Museum
Courtesy of MICRO
Courtesy of MICRO

The Brooklyn Public Library is one of America’s largest public libraries—and now, its lobby is home to what’s being billed as the world’s smallest mollusk museum (and its first, no less). The vending machine-sized installation contains 15 different educational “displays,” all of which highlight fun facts about bivalves, snails, octopuses, and other soft-bodied creatures, according to The Washington Post.

Installed on November 10, the mollusk museum is the brainchild of Amanda Schochet, a computational ecologist, and media producer Charles Philipp. In 2016 they co-founded MICRO, a nonprofit organization that makes and distributes compact science museums.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

“Science museums are amazing,” the duo said in a video about their company, which is supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation. “There’s just not enough of them. They’re all in wealthier neighborhoods. It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access. So we decided to reinvent the museum, taking everything that we love about museums and putting it inside a box that can go anywhere.”

The factory-made museums are designed in collaboration with scientists, and created using 3D printing techniques. They’re easily reproduced, and can be set up anywhere, including libraries, airports, or even the DMV.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The BPL’s Smallest Mollusk Museum is MICRO’s first public project. Why mollusks, you might ask? For one thing, they survive in every habitat on Earth, and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Plus, a mollusk museum of any type—large or small—didn’t exist yet, as Schochet learned after she once misheard Philipp say he was going to the world’s “mollusk museum.” (He was instead going to the “smallest” one, located inside a Manhattan elevator shaft.)

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum is “packed with exhibits including miniature movie theaters, 3D-printed sculptures of octopus brains and leopard slug hugs, optical illusions showing visitors what it’s like to experience the world as mollusks, and a holographic mollusk aquarium,” Schochet tells Mental Floss. “We've identified nearly 100,000 species of mollusks, but there could be as many as 200,000—they’re all around us, all the time. Every one of them is a lens onto a bigger universe.”

Librarians have also joined in on the mollusk mania, prepping an accompanying series of books for kids and adults about the many creatures featured in the museum's exhibits.

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

MICRO's Smallest Mollusk Museum at the Brooklyn Public Library
Courtesy of MICRO

The Smallest Mollusk Museum will gradually circulate through several of the library system’s branches. Meanwhile, MICRO’s next public offering will be a second mollusk museum, which will open in the Ronald McDonald House in New York City in December 2017. Additional locations and projects—including a small physics museum called the Perpetual Motion Museum—will be announced soon.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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