Final Chapter of Reading Rainbow

Well, one of my all-time favorite shows from my childhood is ending after 26 years.  I wanted to discuss for a minute about the reason behind why the show is going off-air.

The article states:

Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books.

Throughout the article they explain that television programming is now focusing on teaching kids how to read and not worrying about boosting their interest.  They assume that is secondary to learning how to read in the first place, therefore making Reading Rainbow a luxury instead of a necessity.  Hello!  TV programming is all a luxury and none of it is a necessity.  Some might argue that televised news is a necessity (if you don’t read the paper, I guess) when it comes to first-hand alerts and such. But if we’re talking about programming for kids…in my mind, it’s all a luxury.

I don’t believe for a minute that kids who fall into the illiteracy bracket will somehow learn how to read–no matter how many educational TV programs are funded and put up on the telly.   Yeah, I know kids can learn to count to 10 in Spanish from Dora the Explorer, but that doesn’t teach them to speak Spanish.  That teaches them a parlor trick.  The same goes for learning ABC’s from Sesame Street or even putting to syllables together to make a word.  That doesn’t teach them to read with comprehension.  And by the way, I would LOVE it if someone produced some research in this area where it’s proven unequivocally effective–I’m not joking, because I’m only speaking from my personal experience and not as someone who’s researched extensively.

On the other hand…if you’re flipping through kids shows and not wanting to burn brain cells on “fluff” shows like Care Bears or Teletubbies, then why not turn kids on to a show like Reading Rainbow, which at least presents the educational world in a fun and adventurous light?  If you can’t actually teach kids to read with TV programming (and I’m not talking about DVD’s for homeschooling and tools like that) then why not at least give them the “luxury” of watching shows that encourage fun in science, math, reading, art and music in general?  If someone can’t read, then perhaps their interest will be sparked to learn (from a teacher or teaching material) if they see other kids having adventures in reading?  Perhaps their boredom and poor grades in science class can be boosted by Bill Nye the Science Guy or some similar education show?

One of my favorite kids shows on right now is Little Einsteins.  To me, this show is to my kids what Reading Rainbow was to me.  Not with literature, obviously, but with music and art.  Little Einsteins uses genuine pieces of art, music, musical instruments and global locations to create a fun educational TV show.  It’s a great mix of educational facts and learning mixed with adventure and fun characters.   I’m sure there are more shows like that out there that you readers know of (I’d love to hear about them) but the fact is, we hardly watch TV at all!  I’m not being self-righteous about it 🙂  The fact is, we just don’t have time in the day.  I’m not someone who feels like the TV is pure evil–like any tool, a television can be used for good if we desire.  But let’s not kid ourselves that the TV replaces either schooling, homeschooling or private tutoring when we’re talking about education.

What do you think?

Then again, I could just be sour that my favorite kids show is going off-air 🙂

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7 responses to “Final Chapter of Reading Rainbow”

  1. Bartosz says :

    Brianna, I like your post and wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. It is amazing what Little Einsteins did to our daughter’s interest in the cultural heritage of our city. In fact, right before we move here she saw an episode in which the characters visit one of the local palaces. When she saw that palace here, it immediately became a “safer” and “more familiar” place to her. With so much kids programming focusing on trivial or even wasteful matters, it is sad to see a show that encouraged kids to learn go.

    All the best.

  2. Pam Davis says :

    I can’t believe they are taking this off the air. Very sorry to hear it. When you think of a great show like that and then think of the usual garbage on tv, even kids shows that include violence…it makes no sense for reading rainbow to be taken away.

  3. aimee enriquez says :

    How were its ratings? Maybe they are looking for something flashier? Like Little Einsteins! I Love both shows, I am more fond of Reading Rainbow because it is from my youth. We used to go to the library and get the books from the shows! My boys have a line of books that are actually tagged by Reading Rainbow, like scholastic. The line is at B&N. anyway, It is sad! But our library carries the whole line of videos! so maybe your little ones and their little ones will still have that available to them.

  4. 5carrolls says :

    Bart-that’s awesome to hear!
    Mom-yeah, although PBS usually doesn’t have too much “garbage” I guess.
    Aimee-In the article, they said they are wanting shows now that focus on phonics and learning how to read instead of assuming that kids already can read and encouraging them to read more. That’s what my beef was about: are TV shows REALLY teaching them to read? Is that even a worthwhile endeavor?

  5. caryn says :

    So so sad, but I was also sad when Mr. Rodgers said goodbye. I’m reading into this, but perhaps we don’t have as many young readers who are able to enjoy Reading Rainbow. There could be several reasons for this…junk TV being one of them. You would think in an age where children are seldom read to, that a show that reads to them would be beneficial. Just my thoughts.

  6. 5carrolls says :

    That’s a good point, Caryn.

  7. Court says :

    Agreed on all points, Bri. Of course, I only eve got to experience Reading Rainbow in the summer; AFN never carried it, as far as I can remember. Anyway…I agree with you it’s highly doubtful a child is going to learn to read from TV beyond “parlor tricks” (excellent designation, btw!). That’s just not how reading and language acquisition work.

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