LeVar Burton, probably best known to anyone who was or had a child during the 1980's and '90's as the host of Reading Rainbow, launched a Kickstarter on Wednesday asking the public to help him fund a a digital version of the show (which already sort of exists in app form). Burton promised he would put its celebrity-narrated books, video field trips, and teaching tools into the hands of teachers for free. The ask for the project looked steep: a full $1 million.
He got $2 million.
In a day.
This is probably due at least in part to the effect Burton tends to have on people who fondly remember his show (and its catchy theme song) from their own childhoods, as illustrated in the campaign's clever pitch video:
And no, that's not the first time, those jokes have been made. Consider, for example, Troy from Community meeting LeVar Burton for the first time (and hating it—he wanted a signed photo because "you can't disappoint a picture!")
"I don't know what to say," a visibly shaken Burton told supporters on YouTube earlier today. "We've just crossed the million dollar threshold. It is our first day. I am overwhelmed."
It's a project that hasn't just been the product of a single benefactor or a few generous souls, either. There are 30,000-plus individual supporters for Bring Back Reading Rainbow, which means some serious hand cramps for Burton (he's got more than 1,800 autographs to hand out, according to the stats on the Kickstarter page).
Interestingly, there has been a certain amount of criticism directed at the campaign. Burton's company is for-profit, points out the Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey, and the new Reading Rainbow will be available on a subscription-only basis (unless, as Burton points out, you're a teacher). Also, education experts focus on phonics, rather than being read to, to foster literacy skills these days.
But Burton's infectious love of reading and books is such a solid touchstone for a generation of children (many of whom are now parents), that the idea was much, much too good to pass up.