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11 Educational Facts About Reading Rainbow

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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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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
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As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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BBC

Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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