On meeting a childhood hero (and all that happened next!)

On meeting a childhood hero (& what happened next!)
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.

And with one flip of the dial I found LeVar Burton on PBS, always eager to read-aloud to me.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Trying to nonchalantly snap a pic of my book on the table during dinner!

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.

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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

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About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.

Comments

  1. What a fantastic story! I loved Reading Rainbow and have always been a fan of Levar Burton. Even though my 3 and 5 year old have never watched the show, they sing the song to themselves sometimes while they are playing because I apparently also do the same thing. 😉 Reading Rainbow was a special show and I will be checking out the new app and finding the old episodes on Netflix!

  2. I LOVED RR as a child and have it on my list to introduce my children to it this summer. Like Sarah, I sometimes sing the song.

    Congratulations on meeting him! How exciting is that?! And that kind review he sent of your book. Blows me away.

    Congrats again, Jamie!

  3. What an awesome story! I didn’t watch tv as a child as my parents didn’t own one, but I am a life long reader. My Mom homeschooled us and she always read to us during the winter time.
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  4. Congratulations, what an amazing endorsement! I, too, loved Reading Rainbow as a kid and snapped up the app through the Kickstrater campaign. I am really looking forward to getting my copy of your book.

  5. I have chills! I loved Reading Rainbow! Thanks for reminding me and connecting us with where to find episodes now. Also, we are so very excited to have your book come in the mail. Congratulations.

  6. Oh Jamie, I shed a few tears, what a terrific story! I love RR, I love Levar Burton, and have many sweet memories of my big boys watching the show. I’m getting that app pronto to introduce to my little caboose. I forget things the older guys liked that she would too! And your book!! Yay!!!! So happy for you and appreciate all your hard work for the homeschool community!!

  7. Beyond beautiful.
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  8. Wow. What an awesome story! You are such an inspiration to me, and LeVar Burton is almost like another family member here, thanks to Reading Rainbow and Netflix. Some things will never get old. 🙂
    Shelly’s latest post: Why Should We Homeschool?- Part 6- Centrality of the Family

  9. Charissa says:

    Wow, that’s awesome, Jamie!!! What an amazing moment in the story of your life. We love Reading Rainbow too. 🙂

  10. Oh Jamie, this story made me tear up!! I’m so happy this turned out this way–what a beautiful ‘lifetime achievement’. I, too, was one of those latchkey kids who would watch Reading Rainbow all.the.time. and loved it. We (thankfully) have a discovery education subscription too so we can watch them as well! I’m going to check out his app. I remember how CRAZY his kickstarter was, overfunded within days and I happily added to that. Off to add that app….
    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: Eating in the Middle by Andie Mitchell, a Review

  11. You met Geordie LeForge! I mean… Levar Burton! I rember discovering Reading Rainbow as a kid and realizing it was the same guy from Star Trek, and thought that was so cool! Yes, I watched Star Trek with my dad as a kid… But we were avid readers in my family too. And is loved reading rainbow when I got to see it. That’s awesome that you got to meet him!

  12. I am so inspired by your story: setting goals, living your purpose, hard work, and sweet rewards. Congratulations!!! I pre-ordered your book and an excited to read it as well as have a physical reminder to dream big. Thank you!

  13. I just cried when I scrolled down and saw the picture of you and LeVar Burton! Tears! I love this story. Great is His faithfulness.

  14. What an inspirational story! I can’t imagine what it would have been like to meet LeVar Burton…I spent many days watching him, and am so grateful that the show is back and I can share it with my daughter. (I’m hoping to turn her into an avid reader like her mommy.) It was so cool to read this! *sending virtual champagne your way*
    Nicole’s latest post: What are we reading, Wednesday? Part III

  15. I loved this story as well. My kids and I have watched all the RR episodes on Netflix and was excited to find the app recently! I really enjoyed your story of riding down to the library to read every morning. I read with my kids all the time but I never take them to our local library because they only want to play on the computer or play with the toys! Sometimes I wish our library only had books.

  16. Love, love, love this, Jamie! The way you write about your experience is beautiful. I feel like I’m right there experiencing everything with you.

  17. This post has me in tears! I am so, so happy for you! What a wonderful treat to meet him and have him endorse your book. I don’t know who has made a better TV show for young ones. Amen!
    By the way, I have received a copy of your book and look forward to finding the opportunity to use it a bit and then review. Thanks!
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  18. Stephanie says:

    Chills on my arms and tears in my eyes… I’ve never left a comment but have loved Simple Homeschool for years. I just bought my copy, and free download, yay! And can’t wait to get my hands on Give Your Child the World. I too was a RR junkie, Lavar Burton ROCKS! And so do you, Jamie! Thanks for your gifts that you share here on SH.

  19. This post is so endearing! I can relate to how you were raised – so much. I don’t remember even having a book shelf, and we never went to the library. But I loved RR and the inspiration that books were out there just waiting for me to “take a trip!”

    Your experience this year with your book release and meeting LeVar are precious! Thank you for sharing it.
    Cara@TheHomeLearner’s latest post: Bullet Journal: Homeschool Planning Tip #1

  20. This whole post just made me smile. How exciting for you! And what blessed timing for all of that to happen at just the right moment.
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  21. That is beyond amazing, Jamie! What a special event to meet a childhood hero. I’ve always loved RR, too, and my son now enjoys it which makes my heart happy. Of course, he loves LeVar best as Geordi in Star Trek! I’m so glad you had the chance to meet and truly connect with LeVar. So cool! Can’t wait until my copy of Give Your Child The World arrives in my mailbox. (And thank you for the freebie, too! It’s wonderful! We are already using it as a resource to augment my son’s studies in Greek and Roman history.)

  22. What an amazing story! I loved Reading Rainbow as a kid–I can still remember some of the books from the show. My kids enjoy watching it on Amazon, though they are not quite as into it as I was (but I hold out hope–they weren’t sure about Mr. Rogers at first either and now they love his show). I’m a huge bookworm (to the point that I became an editor so I could work with books) and hoping to raise my kids to love reading too.

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