Who doesn’t love Reading RainbowThe show, hosted by LeVar Burton, had a long, momentous run on PBS for 26 years. And, thanks to his social media savvy and the generous giving of all who have an endearing place in their heart for the classic learning program, it’s making its return  – this time, across multiple digital/web-based platforms. Burton launched the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign and in just ONE day, managed to raise over $1M for the program.

I’d say that LeVar Burton is winning right now. Wouldn’t you?


photo credit: AtlantaBlackStar.com


Why? Because he managed to raise $1M in 11 hours to revive the program. That was last Wednesday. Today? The campaign has raised over $3.2M  – with 30 days still left to go. That’s 3 times his original goal of $1M for a great cause.

The aim is to take Reading Rainbow to the web, offer access in the classrooms of underprivileged youth, and allow children to access the digital library on mobile, Android, consoles and OTT boxes.

It all sparked from a passion for reading and a desire to fight illiteracy and capture youth interest in the activity at an early age to lay the foundation for lifelong learning.

Ok, so how did LeVar Burton manage to secure this big win – a victory so big that it’s exceeded expectations three times over? 4 reasons:

1. He recognized a cause and became furiously committed to and passionate about solving it…

…by whatever means necessary. Statistics for people who read for pleasure have been suffering since 1984, with youth readers impacted the most. And, what’s worse, youth illiteracy is far too high: 1 in 4 kids in the US are projected to grow up illiterate.

Burton was always a reader. He understood the power of reading and the education that comes through being engaged in a book. After the smashing success of the poignant Roots television series adapted from Alex Haley’s novel of the same title, he also understood just how important visual storytelling was.

So, in 1983, he began hosting Reading Rainbow to visually guide children into the world of literature in exciting and compelling ways.

Fast forward to 2014 in a new media, digital age, and Burton is aiming to fulfill the need to spark the interest in reading for children by going even further.


2. He’s positioned himself as a beloved, trusted authority and advocate

…and he’s done it through service. Another reason LeVar Burton has secured such a big win is because he’s paid his dues – over 26 years worth of ’em. And by dues, I mean: he has created meaningful relationships with so many people and has become a cultural icon – for all the right reasons.

I mean, when you have Jimmy Fallon sing a rendition one of the most beloved television theme songs, you’ve created something special.

Again, who doesn’t love Reading Rainbow? The program made books come alive, enhanced the reading experience and taught us things in relevant, interesting ways. People (like myself) grew up on it and love what the program was to them as well as what it represented.

What resulted was tremendous success and a level of authority, trust, and influence among children, parents and educators, and the creation of a strong, supportive community (of eventual campaign backers) that have stood the test of time.

Oh…and he’s won 26 Emmys and Peabody award for the program. That doesn’t hurt, either.


3. He understood the need to adapt the solution…

…and meet children where they are. Understanding that traditional media platforms no longer hold the same captivating power, Burton adapted the solution to increasing readership and youth literacy to the digital age.

In fact, he said: “Thirty minutes on TV was yesterday’s world. In today’s world, today’s kids want today’s technology.”

That was emphasized further after reading a book on an iPad. He figured he could re-created that experience in an exciting way for children by adapting the solution for his cause to the new media, digital age. So, he launched the Reading Rainbow app in 2012. In only 18 months its readers devoured over 10 million books, and it became the most popular free educational app in iTunes for two years.

Part of the reason for the success of the Reading Rainbow app is because of gamification. Burton took the principles of Reading Rainbow and made reading a game for children – which is a very compelling way to capture the interest of youth readers.

In a word, Burton sensed the shift, allowed himself to be nimble enough to ride the tide, but remained committed to his cause.


4. He’s going to add unbeatable value…

…in the lives of children, no less. He wants to combat youth illiteracy, increase interest in reading, and make resources to do so accessible. Burton wants to create a digital library making books accessible to “every child, everywhere.” Burton envisions underrepresented, underserved and underprivileged youth would get tremendous value and the ability to access literature by offering the app and the subscription service for free in 7500 underserved classrooms.

Now, who can’t get behind something like that?

Burton and the enormous success of Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign has taught us about the power of fulfilling a need, being adaptable with the solution, and the unbeatable force of supportive community. And, all this (and more) will be made possible because of the unprecedented power of social media, connection and community done right.

But, as Levar Burton famously said, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Read all about the campaign here.

LeVar Burton, all I have to say is: what a well-deserved win, Champ! 

How have you used some of the principles above to secure your big win? I wanna hear all about it!

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