ReadingrainbowwwwwwwwwwA generation of children grew up learning to love reading by watching LeVar Burton's PBS show Reading Rainbow. The show was cancelled in 2009 after a 26-year run, but has been resurrected as a new iPad app.

Engadget attended the public launch of the app, and has video of Burton's emotional introduction of the app, as well as some hands-on reviews.

Burton told us that he was genuinely surprised with the public outcry that followed the show's cancellation. Kids have grown up with it for more than a quarter-century, and as such, there are some fairly strong emotional bonds at play here. According to Burton, maintaining the elements that made the show so magical was the most difficult aspect of the 18 months the team invested in the creation of the app. And, naturally, one reporter in attendance wanted to know what happened to the book report feature that played heavily in the TV show. Burton assured him that it's coming.

The app's interface is built around a series of floating islands, each based on a different genre. At present, the islands include "My Friends and Family," "Animal Kingdom," "Genius Academy" (science and math) and "Action Adventures & Magic Tales." More subject islands will be added as the app continues to be built out. Burton told us that the team was looking to move away from the more traditional e-book shelf format, into something that made reading "more of an adventure," much like the original program.


New books are available via a subscription service for $9.99/month, or $29.99 for a six-month subscription. Reading Rainbow's page on the App Store has additional details for exactly how the subscription system works.

Reading Rainbow is available free for the iPad on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Top Rated Comments

nostaws Avatar
155 months ago
Loved Reading Rainbow, but "service for $9.99/month, or $29.99 for a six-month subscription" seems a little steep.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
YellowKing Avatar
155 months ago
I bought the 6-month subscription for my daughter. She is almost 3 and we read stories before bedtime every night. The problem I had was that she would get bored with reading the same books night after night, and I would too! This meant we were buying new books almost every weekend to the tune of $10-$20. $30 for 6-months of new books was a no-brainer for me and very reasonable considering the cost of kid's books these days.

She absolutely loves the app. She particularly likes the interactive elements and animations in the books. Sometimes she prefers me to read the story, and sometimes prefers the narrator, so it's nice to have both options.

I do have some minor nitpicks with the app. The book selection is OK but there aren't a lot of "classic" kids books. We have found enough to keep us entertained, but hopefully they'll be able to introduce more award-winning books at some point. I also wish animations would not interrupt the narrator. My daughter likes to immediately touch the interactive elements, but this causes the narrator to start over. My only other wish is that there was a full screen option, as some of the book text is small even when zoomed in.

That said, the books that are implemented are all done beautifully. All of the narration has been great (compared to other storybook apps I've used on the iPad), and the animations and sound effects are fun and subtle enough not to detract from the stories.

One other feature my daughter really likes is the virtual sticker album. Every time you complete a new book, you get a sticker. This really encourages her to try new books.

I don't believe in using electronic media as a replacement for traditional paper books, as I think kids get way too much screen time as it is these days. However, this app is a nice supplement to our traditional reading and is also great for times when she just wants to sit down and watch a story on her own.

Part of the reason that I purchased the app is that I loved the show when I was younger and it encouraged a love of reading that continues to this day. I hope that by all of us supporting the app they'll be able to polish up some of the minor quibbles and produce a lot more content.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BigJayhawk Avatar
155 months ago
Agreed, especially since (a) the app is listed as free, and (b) the original Reading Rainbow was on PBS. If the subscription proceeds go toward supporting public television, that may be a different story. But the publisher's name is "RRKidz, Inc.", so I doubt it.

The show itself didn't "support Public Television" either. It was the fact that Public Television could no longer SUPPORT THE SHOW that resulted in shows like this ending.

All people select an occupation. I've never understood why it is that society seems to feel that people that use their talents to pick a NOBLE OCCUPATION in the first place somehow deserve to be marginalized by that choice. It's like, "if you want to serve our children, run a charitable organization, be a full-time religious speaker (i.e. pastor, priest, etc.), or referee sports for the 'Y' you must not make any kind of living doing it."

LeVar Burton (and RRKidz, Inc. for that matter) don't need to be doing this venture as a CHARITY. They exist to support their families and their shareholders. Ultimately, I feel that many people in America (and on this forum) feel that Reading Rainbow is a NOBLE VENTURE. If you do, support it with the cost of McDonald's for 3-4 people and you have SIX MONTHS worth of Additional Content. If you can't afford it then don't (but perhaps don't go to McDonald's all the time either). The FREE APP already seems to have some pretty good content to start with.

Anyway, pick your priorities and throw support where you feel it is NOBLE. To be honest, I'm considering subscribing just to show support with my dollars even though my kids are now 8 and 12 and never much experienced Reading Rainbow.

Just my two cents.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
moethebartender Avatar
155 months ago
Loved Reading Rainbow, but "service for $9.99/month, or $29.99 for a six-month subscription" seems a little steep.
Agreed, especially since (a) the app is listed as free, and (b) the original Reading Rainbow was on PBS. If the subscription proceeds go toward supporting public television, that may be a different story. But the publisher's name is "RRKidz, Inc.", so I doubt it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FloatingBones Avatar
155 months ago
LeVar Burton's keynote from ORA TOC February 2012

LeVar Burton gave the keynote at the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference this year about three men who had a huge influence on his career:



I had almost forgotten his first major role.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Navdakilla Avatar
155 months ago
LOVE THIS
I'll have to introduce this to my baby nephew !!!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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