npr · Reading Rainbow

No crock of gold at the end of Reading Rainbow.

As is so often the case, npr (USA’s national public radio station) has been reporting an item of major interest to everyone interested in how we should be teaching our children to read.
They got the ball rolling by reporting that, after twenty-six years of broadcasting and over two dozen Emmys, the much loved TV programme Reading Rainbow is finally being shelved through lack of funding.
PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), with its 356 member stations offering a broad array of programmes on a huge variety of educational topics, has decided that the show has had its day. Linda Simensky, vice president of PBS, says that ‘when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: “How do we get kids to read books?”‘
Since that time, and in the light of new research, that emphasis has changed towards the mechanics of teaching reading – phonics and ‘reading fundamentals’. This is the network’s new priority. Nevertheless, she calls the end of the programme a ‘bitter/sweet’ moment.
I’m completely in favour of programmes that teach parents and teachers (and children!) the mechanics of reading and spelling but I can’t help feeling that there should also be a place for programmes that encourage and enthuse children to want to read too – and that’s just exactly what many people say Reading Rainbow did.
Want to see a short clip from the series? Try ‘Hail to the Mail’ at