Reading Rainbow is an American half-hour children's television series that aired on PBS Kids from June 6, 1983, to November 10, 2006, with a total of 155 half-hour episodes spanning over 21 seasons. The show encouraged children to read. In 2012, an iPad and Kindle Fire educational interactive book reading and video field trip application was launched bearing the name of the program.
The public television series garnered over 200 broadcast awards, including a Peabody Award and 26 Emmy Awards, 11 of which were in the "Outstanding Children's Series" category. The series was created under the leadership of Cecily Truett Lancit and Larry Lancit, at Lancit Media Productions in New York. The concept of a reading series for children originated with Twila Liggett, PhD, and Paul Schupbach (director), of the Great Plains National Instructional Television Library at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln; and Tony Buttino, of WNED-TV Buffalo, New York. The original team included Lynne Brenner Ganek, Ellen Schecter, and host LeVar Burton.
Each episode centered on a theme from a book, or other children's literature, which was explored through a number of segments or stories. The show also recommended books for kids to look for when they went to the library. It is the fourth-longest running children's series in PBS history, after Arthur, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street. It was also one of the first PBS shows to be broadcast in stereo.
After cancellation on November 10, 2006, reruns aired until August 28, 2009, when it was pulled from the schedule. On June 20, 2012, the Reading Rainbow App was released for the iPad and, within 36 hours, became the #1 most-downloaded educational app in the iTunes App Store. Built from the ground up by LeVar Burton and his company, RRKIDZ, the app allows children to read unlimited books, explore video field trips starring Burton, and earn rewards for reading. The week of June 11, 2013, Reading Rainbow celebrated its 30th anniversary.
In May 2014, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to raise funds to make the app available on the web, Android, game consoles, smartphones, and other streaming devices along with creating a classroom version with the subscription fee waived for up to 13,000 disadvantaged classrooms. The effort met its initial fundraising goal of $1,000,000 in eleven hours. The campaign met its second goal of $5 million in the last 24 hours, triggering a matching $1 million from Seth MacFarlane; the final amount raised on Kickstarter is $5,408,916 from 105,857 backers.