“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high” ok now many of know those words. We grew up hearing them everyday after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, it is the opening words to Reading Rainbow’s theme song. That song has now been silenced. The last episode of the show aired August 28, 2009. After 26 years, a great show that has helped children learn to enjoy and in some cases inspire them to read has been taken away.
Part of my outrage stems from that feeling that part of my childhood is now dead. I was 4 when the show started airing in 1983. I was too young to remember LeVar Burton from Roots and he hadn’t started his tenure as Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation (and honestly I was little confused at 7 years old to why the “Reading Rainbow guy was on some show basically wearing a chrome banana clip over his eyes once I actually watched TNG it made more sense). To me, he was like a friend that took us (my brother and I) on a new adventure each day. He made reading fun, and that was a huge influence in my life. I looked forward to each new story, and actually had hopes of maybe being one of the kid reviewers one day (you know the ones at the end of the show “but you don’t have to take my word for it.”)
I’m not saying it is the reason I learned to read. My parents are big readers. As a result they read to me frequently, and I caught on quickly. However, the show did inspire me to be an avid reader and to use my imagination to bring books to life. It also started my interest in being a writer. I wanted to write the books that people read. I wanted to create characters that could be brought to life. Twenty-six years later I still have that goal.
The other part of my outrage come from what this says about our culture. We can come up with money to keep shows that we basically lose brain cells watching, but no one will fund a show that has been a positive influence on children for a little less than three decades. I get that educational programming has its issues. Trust me, I blame Sesame Street as much as I blame MTV and Nintendo for my short attention span. I agree that the television shouldn’t be the only teaching tool. There are some things parents need to be doing on their own. However, this was a wonderful show that nurtured love for reading, and many people my age as well as children that came after us reaped the positive benefits.
On August 28, 2009 my Twitter stream and Facebook page were both full of angry and sad people saying good bye to our old friend. It may not have been a part of our lives any more, but it is a strong part of our past and we cannot believe it will not be there for more children in the future.
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© 2009, Jenni Hammitt. All rights reserved.