Many adults today may have fond memories of afternoon episodes of the public-television program Reading Rainbow, which featured storybook read-alouds, author interviews, animated book adaptations, and more. This educational mainstay sought to bring books to life for audiences in an engaging and age-appropriate way. Now, LeVar Burton, longtime host and executive producer of the program, is venturing into the world of electronic juvenile reading with the launch of RRKidz, a subscription-based digital library for iPad and key Android devices which will give young readers access to hundreds of titles while being moderated for content appropriateness.
In an interview with Calvin Reid from Publisher’s Weekly, Burton explained that the subscription model is still being determined and could conceivably have tiered levels of access; regardless, he was quick to point out that it would have something of a budget-minded level for families in order to keep it affordable. The program is slated to launch possibly as early as this fall or the beginning of 2012. At the time of launch around three hundred titles are expected to be available in its digital library, with as many as forty-five titles added each month.
While the program to reach out to younger generations of readers is exciting enough, one of the key announcements was that many of the titles will be original content, including new titles, games, quizzes, and videos. One of Burton’s key selling points to publishers has been the brand-recognition that comes with Reading Rainbow. Rather than being one of millions of titles in the book app stores, publishers can know that consumers will seek out the trusted name associated with the television program and find access to appropriate titles more easily.
One of the aspects that may contribute to the success of the online service is Burton’s insistence that the interactive content still contribute to young people actually reading. While videos and games are important to engage readers at the onset, the ultimate goal is to foster a love of books. Burton himself plans to narrate many of the titles, as well as rely on other celebrity voices for read-alouds, proof that the digital children’s library can benefit from what kept the show on the air for twenty-three years: its ability to provide stable and valuable content while adapting to keep up with the trends that its audience appreciates.