Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool
Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
Take a look, it’s in a book, a Reading Rainbow”
Some stories are decades in the making. This is one of them.
It starts the summer of 1985–the year I rode my bike every weekday morning to Mary C. Williams Elementary School in my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.
I spent hours on a beanbag in the shady corner of the mid-grade novel shelves, curled up with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Pippi Longstocking. When the library closed at noon, I pedaled home again in time for back-to-back episodes of Reading Rainbow.
I look back on that summer as one of my happiest. I turned into a lifelong reader.
On the outside, it wasn’t a given that I’d become one. We didn’t have tons of books at home, and like many latchkey kids I watched a lot of television. But my mom took me to the library every third Monday, God bless her.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I didn’t give much thought to Reading Rainbow until I found myself trying to inspire lifelong readers of my own. Not only did I want my three kids to fall in love with books, I also wanted to plop their cute little bottoms in front of the television every once in a while and have 30 minutes to myself. 😉
I began hunting for old RR episodes, only to be disappointed. A handful had been put on DVD, but we plowed through those quickly. There had to be a way to find more.
This was important to me, so in October 2011 I scribbled the following on my ongoing life dream list: “I want my children to enjoy watching all the episodes of Reading Rainbow.”
Caught in a whim of inspiration, I added underneath, “And I want to meet LeVar Burton and thank him for his work on Reading Rainbow.”
Less than a year later, I was thrilled to find out that Reading Rainbow had released an app. I snapped that baby up faster than you can say “download.”
“Skybrary” is Reading Rainbow redesigned for a new generation, and it is fabulous.
It has the classic elements of the show that those of our age know and remember (slow-paced books read aloud, LeVar’s video field trips), but it uses today’s technology to deliver the goods. And RR’s recently-released Skybrary School provides extended lessons for educators in the classroom or at home.
(Note: Even now as tweens, my kids love the short video field trips on everything from self-driving cars to how astronauts pee in space. Yep, really.)
A year after downloading the app I made another fantastic discovery: With a Discovery Education Streaming membership, the kids and I could watch ALL the old episodes, too! (These days you can also find plenty on Amazon Prime and Netflix.)
So all of the above enabled my Reading Rainbow dream for my kids to come true, and a RR Kickstarter campaign in mid-2014 gave me the unusual chance to fulfill the second part: “to meet LeVar Burton and thank him for his work.”
We were amazed recently by this Skybrary field trip on 3D printing!
It took nearly two years to arrange that meeting in New York City, and during that time more crazy happened. I finally found a publisher for the book I had been researching and writing for years, the one I hoped would inspire more lifelong readers and world-changers.
Dinner with LeVar ended up scheduled for March 9th of this year.
The first pre-release version of Give Your Child the World? Landed on my porch March 8th. Which also happened to be my 40th birthday.
The divine timing beyond anything I ever could have orchestrated on my own.
Meeting a childhood hero comes with risks, don’t you think? There are a myriad of ways that those we’ve looked up to can fail to live up to our expectations–and while Steve and I sat waiting for LeVar to arrive I coached myself to be realistic. (And to be cool, Jamie, be cool!)
But as soon as he came in and beamed a genuine smile our way I knew he was the real deal.
We chatted about our kids, books, Mr. Rogers, Star Trek, raising readers, and good wines. We talked about dreams for the future, giving me the chance to nervously pull out my own dream on paper and give it to him. And I took the opportunity to thank him for all his work has meant to me.
Later that month, I opened my inbox to see a message from LeVar’s assistant, with words from the man himself about Give Your Child the World that continue to blow me away.
I still can’t get over how life sometimes comes full circle.
I see myself back in the summer of 1985. A nine-year-old plopped on the living room rug in a wet bathing suit and towel, drying off from the pool or sprinkler while watching Reading Rainbow.
I imagine telling that girl that one day she’ll write a book to inspire readers, and that the host of the very show she loves will put his name on it, and well, I get choked up every time. God is so good.
You have world-changers in the making under your roof, too. There’s something special and unique they’ve been put here to do–a gift only they can give. A problem only they can solve.
Falling in love with this world (and those who live in it) through inspiring books is a perfect step toward imprinting that mission on their hearts. And Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time is a resource to help you, as parents, easily do just that.
But you don’t have to take my word for it:
“An invaluable resource for any and everyone who has children in their lives! Jamie Martin has scoured the best in children’s literature from around the globe and compiled in one volume, book recommendations sure to appeal to the reader in your life.”
~ LeVar Burton, Reading Rainbow