“Reading Rainbow” is being revived after a 15-year hiatus with “Reading Rainbow Live,” a new version of the classic PBS kids’ show that is set to launch in 2022.
This updated show will “share the same core values and structure” as the original “Reading Rainbow,” but with the key difference being the interactive component that the LeVar Burton-hosted series couldn’t offer its young viewers.
According to producers, this iteration, which will be hosted by multiple cast members, was “developed as a ‘life-saver’ response” to the challenges parents have faced with their children learning at home during the pandemic.
The new 25-minute episodes of “Reading Rainbow” will feature “original music, dance parties, field trips, cultural explorations, investigations of the natural world – and of course, the book of the day” and have a different theme “designed to engage and inform young viewers.”
Unlike the original, this live version will be hosted by multiple performers, a move that producers think will give children the chance to better see themselves in the “diverse” cast, dubbed “The Rainbows.” The search is currently underway for the new show’s final Rainbow player. You can find the casting notice here.
Per the description for “Reading Rainbow Live”: “Using the interactive virtual platform Looped, audience members will have the chance to engage, play games, and even have an opportunity to be featured ‘on stage’ during each episode of ‘Reading Rainbow Live.’ Whether they are asking questions of a cast member, following along to a dance routine, or being rewarded for answering a question correctly, viewers will be motivated to participate, and parents will be gratified knowing that their children are being entertained and intellectually stimulated. Episodes of ‘Reading Rainbow Live’ will be available to stream after the live event is complete, so children can enjoy each episode whether or not they participated in the original broadcast.”
“Reading Rainbow Live” is also making a commitment to featuring “an inclusive selection of books that represent diverse authors, illustrators, main characters, subjects, and settings,” per producers. “The team is working with a diverse national advisory panel of librarians, educators, childhood literacy experts, parents, and children to select books that reflect the lives of all young people. Books will be chosen from lists approved by organizations such as: ALA (American Library Association) and We Need Diverse Books.”
“We are excited and proud to be partnering with Ohana Pictures on ‘Reading Rainbow Live,'” Nancy Hammond, executive vice president and COO of Buffalo Toronto Public Media (WNED PBS), the creators of the “Reading Rainbow” brand, said in a statement. “Early learning experiences are crucial to the growth and development of young children, and ‘Reading Rainbow Live’ provides a fun and innovative way for kids to explore the world and learn through books, music and movement.”
“Reading Rainbow Live” is created by Steven Beer who executive produces along with James P. Axiotis. The new series hails from Mark Harris’ Ohana Pictures. Harris is a producer and Amy Guglielmo is creative director.
The original “Reading Rainbow” ran from 1983 until 2006 on PBS. Designed to encourage a love of books and reading among children, the series won a Peabody, nine Parents’ Choice awards and 26 Emmys, nine of which were for Outstanding Children’s Series.