Levar Burton, 'Star Trek: TNG' Star, Beams Up $2 Million for 'Reading Rainbow'

"Star Trek" Next Generation Levar Burton
Levar Burton as Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (Image credit: IMDb Screenshot / Star Trek: The Next Generation / Gene Trindl – © 1987 Gene Trindl – Image courtesy mptvimages.com)

Talk about warp drive. A "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star's quest to reboot his 1980s-era reading show exceeded a $1 million crowdsourcing goal in just 11 hours.

And with more than a month to go in the campaign, backers of "Reading Rainbow" pushed the pool of money on Kickstarter past $2.6 million.

"We just crossed the million-dollar threshold on the first day. I am overwhelmed," a teary LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge on "Star Trek: The Next Generation") said in a video message Wednesday (May 28). "Thank you so much. This will enable us to really, really, really do a lot of good."

LeVar Burton plans to revive his beloved children's show into a Web series, create a special version for the classroom and then make it available for free to "schools in need".

Unsourced statistics on the website say that 1 in 4 children in the United States grows up illiterate, and Burton said he hopes the campaign will change that.

Actor and Producer Levar Burton tweets with two devices during the STS-134 Tweetup, Thursday, April 28, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. About 150 NASA Twitter followers attended the event. (Image credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers)

15 million tablet views

"Reading Rainbow" was originally developed for television when it launched in 1983, which makes it a bit of a dinosaur among a generation raised on iPads and mobile phones.

Recognizing this, two years ago Burton's group launched a "Reading Rainbow" app for tablets. To date, users have viewed about 15 million of the videos and books included on the app, he said.

But not every family can afford a tablet, which is why Burton wants to make the show available on the Web. The television star also heard from teachers that they wanted to present the show in their classrooms.

As the funds mount for the campaign, Burton said he plans to expand "Reading Rainbow" to as many schools as he can.

"The first million raised will help us get onto the Web and into 1,500+ classrooms … But now that we're there (!), we've got some big ideas for stretch goals," Burton stated on Kickstarter.

"We promise: Every dollar you contribute will help us bring 'Reading Rainbow' to more platforms, and provide [the show] for free in more classrooms."

For more details on Levar Burton's "Reading Rainbow" Kickstarter campaign, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/readingrainbow/bring-reading-rainbow-back-for-every-child-everywh

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace