The Day the Rainbow Died

Make a wish/Have a ball/Dream a dream/Be it all…/If you want it, you can get it/But to get it, you’ve got to want it/Anything you want to try…../Just let go and you'll fly highhhhhhhh.../And Make a Wish!*

I’m making a wish. I am wishing, dreaming, hoping someone, or a lot of someones, realize how gray our world will be without rainbows—especially this rainbow, the Reading Rainbow

On August 28th Reading Rainbow died. After 26 years of celebrating books Reading Rainbow is off the air.

Why in the world is Reading Rainbow—a program celebrating books and reading and ideas--going off the air?

“Because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights,” explained, John Grant, who is in charge of content at Reading Rainbow's home station.

What’s a few hundred thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things? Consider how much more than that we, the United States of America, spend on other things—war, for instance--wars against things like drugs, poverty, pollution, people...oh yeah, and illiteracy.

Grant noted that while the decision to end Reading Rainbow had to do with funding cuts to PBS, it “can also be traced back to a philosophical change about TV and reading. He says the change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on things like phonics and spelling, the basic tools of reading”….And PBS and CPB and the Department of Education want to put funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read. They think “teaching the mechanics of reading should be the network's priority.”

Silly me, I thought that was what teachers and parents were supposed to do…maybe that’s why funding for education is not of highest propriety…why pay teachers? Heck, let’s let TV teach our children “the mechanics of reading.”

Reading Rainbow is not and has never been about teaching children to read. Reading Rainbow does something more…something huge: “Reading Rainbow" Grant notes, “taught kids why to read, you know, the love of reading, encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”

We don’t seem to mind spending heaps of money to bully people into doing the “right thing.” So why not peel off some good old American greenbacks to do a really right thing: Bring back Reading Rainbow.

Better yet, skip PBS. PBS will go on to create other, wonderful programs—that’s what PBS does, provide “quality” programming for television viewers, programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the only programs with longer runs on PBS than Reading Rainbow.

Let’s turn instead to those “for profit” TV program producers, the one who bring us “quality” TV shows packed with plenty worth learning to love: violence, rage, anger, slaughter, decapitation, blood, cussing, crime, crime, crime…

ABC, NBC, FX, CBS, Fox, HBO…why don’t YOU bring back Reading Rainbow?

Come on, use a couple of hundred thousand of those dollars you charge sponsors to air commercials for products they want us to buy—and buy us a program we want to watch—and want our children to watch. One that celebrates reading and imagination.

Butterfly in the sky/ I can go twice as high/Take a look/ it's in a book/ -- Reading Rainbow...

For the full NPR story go to:

*Theme from “Make a Wish” with Tom Chapin, the 70's morning show that fostered my grand ideas.)