The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, May 26, 2003

read on
Reading skills are getting hung out to dry of late... even more so than usual. First, libraries have to depend on luck to stock their shelves. Now, "Reading Rainbow", the PBS show that attempts to instill a love of reading into young'uns, is floundering for dollars and is in danger of going away. (I confess I don't know much about it; it started in 1983, by which time I was too old to have been part of it's 6-to-8 year-old audience.)

This, despite the fact that Kunta Kinte/Geordie from Star Trek himself, LeVar Burton, is the driving force behind it. (Does anyone else get surprised by the fact that Burton is nearly 50 years old? I know he was on Roots during the '70s, but he still seems so youngish.)

"Reading Rainbow" has several strikes against it in the battle for funding. For starters, it has no access to merchandise licensing deals, an increasingly important part of PBS' funding scheme for children's shows. There are no "Reading Rainbow" action figures to sell, no "Reading Rainbow" jammies to keep kids warm at night.

I don't really understand this. Why can't "Reading Rainbow" jump on the merchandising bandwagon? I mean, it's got a logo and identity, and Burton can be the saleable face for the show. Anything can be hawked, for crying out loud! PBS should be able to set a marketing wizard on this and make the show a revenue generator.