50 Years After The JFK Assassination: LeVar Burton Shares His Story

JFK Official Portrait

First published on the History Detectives blog, LeVar Burton writes his memories of JFK from a child’s perspective; highlighting how adult reactions can shape a child’s memories…and the tragedy of unfulfilled potential.

I was 6 years old and in the 1st Grade at Holy Angels Elementary School in Sacramento, California, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963. Being a Catholic school, there was of course, a considerable amount of pride associated with the fact that JFK was the first American president of Irish Catholic descent! It is hard to believe now but in those days, Kennedy’s faith was a pretty big deal for Americans. It was almost as large an issue as Barack Obama’s racial heritage was in the presidential campaign of 2008. In those days, all of the nuns and priests in the local parochial system hailed from Ireland and there was a natural sense of shared achievement in that a son of County Limerick, had risen to the highest office in the land.

Just before lunch, an announcement was made that the young President had been shot and an impromptu prayer vigil for his safe recovery was conducted over the PA system. The next thing I knew, we were informed that the unthinkable had happened; the President was dead! Classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day and we were all sent home. I remember being surprised that day by the presence of my mom, who was normally at work. She called me to her side, gathered me in her arms and for the next several days we sat together as a family, watching the black & white TV as events unfolded in gradations of grey.

I believe the fact that children are so totally dependent on the adults in their lives makes them highly attuned to the moods and emotions of the grown-ups around them. From the obviously shaken priests and nuns at school, to the teary-eyed network anchors, to my own Gibraltar solid rock of a mother, the adults in my life—those who normally provided all of the safety and stability a child thrives on—were gripped by a sudden, uncontrollable and overwhelming sense of grief and loss!

As the days progressed we sat glued to the TV, hugging one another and weeping, and were witness to events both profane and profound: The unbelievable assassination of the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, on live TV; the indelible images of the funeral cortège, a stoic Jackie Kennedy, elegant even in her grief, John-John’s salute of his father’s passing casket. The nation wrapped itself in a blanket of sorrow and mourned our common loss. I had no way of knowing then that my childhood was to become one where the assassinations of significant political leaders and social pioneers would become so frequent as to almost seem commonplace.

As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of that tragic day in Dallas, and move further in time from those dark days, let us remember not only the events themselves, but let those events be a constant reminder to us all, of the genuinely tragic nature of potential unfulfilled. As was said recently by Kerry Kennedy, one of JFK’s own nieces, “What we should be looking at is not how these men died, but how they lived.”

Indeed… how they lived, and what might have been had they lived long enough to finish the work they began.


thumbReading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Stand Up and Reach for the Stars!

Carina Nebula

We are very pleased to present the following blog post by Abigail Harrison, also known as Astronaut Abby, a young girl with a love of science and a dream of space, who isn’t afraid to stand up and strive for her goals with all her heart. Abby also encourages other young girls and boys to set their own goals and reach for the stars.

I was five years old when I received the book that changed my life. It was a massive coffee table book called The Universe – it was hundreds of pages long and crammed with knowledge, a seemingly nonsensical gift for a five year-old. What would I do with that? I was still learning how to make sense of English – the gagillion different ways that letters can combine to make a cacophony of illogical sounds and phrases. Shorts a’s and long a’s? C’s and K’s and S’s oh my!

The book was almost too big for me to carry, and certainly too difficult for me to understand. Even when it was read out loud to me, the concepts it described – from electrons and protons to states of matter – flew over my head and into the clouds. I was by no means a prodigy. I was a completely ordinary kid, the only exception being my curiosity. Prior to this point I had wondered how many earthworms I could pull out of the garden, why two socks equaled one pair, and whether or not every other green thing growing could be fed to my dog (the answer to this one is no).

With The Universe as my companion, a whole new type of inquiry was opened up to me. I literally had the universe at my finger tips! I was immersed in the pictures of this book, majestic and different from anything I had seen before. Soon The Universe was the book I asked for every night, and in just a little while I began to understand more, seeing farther than just the pictures on the page, seeing instead the pictures painted in my mind by the descriptive words.

With this new understanding, this newfound love and appreciation for the written word, I had discovered the key to my own imagination. Whole new worlds were opened up to me. I could be anyone, go anywhere, do anything. Nothing was impossible. By the time I was ten I had already ridden dragons, traveled to space, cured the world of a raging biocontagion, and ridden a magic school bus from volcanoes to ocean depths. So it seemed like no big deal when I decided that I wanted to go to space as my ‘adult job.’ I’d always known, deep down, that someday I would visit the starry night sky. And now there was nothing stopping me. I would be an astronavigator, like my heroes and heroines. I would discover the secrets hidden in the universe and find the worlds and adventures I had dreamed of.

Through books I learned of compassion and love, friendship and adventure. I learned that good always conquered evil, and that even the most unlikely of tasks could be accomplished with will and determination. With this knowledge I declared my own quest, as every young hero must, and set out to accomplish it no matter how long it might take. Not only would I travel to the stars, I would step foot on Mars. I would turn the impossible into reality. And I would never be alone whilst doing so, for I would always have my imagination.

Astronaut_Abby_PhotoAbigail Harrison is a girl with a dream. She wants to someday be an astronaut, AND be the first astronaut to land on Mars. With a dream that big it takes setting goals and working hard each day to make it a reality. Abby has created an online presence which can be found at astronautabby.com. She found the power of social media allowed her to connect with people around the world who were both space professionals as well as enthusiasts. Abby’s goal with her blog at AstronautAbby.com, her Twitter account and her Facebook Page is to share her experience of reaching for this amazing dream and to inspire other young people to set their own goals and reach for the stars.


thumbReading Rainbow wants to thank Abigail Harrison for contributing to this week’s guest blog. We appreciate her support in our mission to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they can “Go anywhere. Be anything.“

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, or Kindle App in the Amazon Store; download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Stand Up for What You Believe In

Superhero kid

The best stories are the ones where the hero or heroine faces a great challenge. These challenges may come in many different guises: Bullying, poverty, loss of a loved one, loss of faith… But what makes these stories so great is that the hero faces these challenges, learns something about himself, and overcomes them. These challenges help our hero learn who he is, what he believes in, and STAND UP for what is important.

Our own lives are not that much different from stories. We all face challenges in many different guises. Every day there are children who deal with bullying at school—whether they are being bullied or choosing whether or not to become a bully. Some children come face to face with poverty—in their own homes or in the streets around them. Others have lost siblings or parents. And last but not least, there are those children who, for one reason or another, feel that they are worthless, and have lost faith in themselves.

But just as in stories, it is these challenges that make us stronger. We CAN be the heroes of our own stories merely by looking inside ourselves and standing up for what we know is right. The stories we read to our children are often exciting, containing dragons and wizards, princes and queens; and sometimes our children believe that you’re only a hero if you save a kingdom. But sometimes being a hero is as simple as choosing to sit next to the new kid at lunch, offering to take canned goods to a food drive, spending time with a widowed grandmother, or telling a friend “I admire how strong/smart/kind you are”.

This week Reading Rainbow will be honoring the memory of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. John F. Kennedy came from a large family and never lacked for money, but he faced plenty of challenges in his short life. Beyond the personal challenges he faced, he also saw the poverty, inequality and suffering of others, and chose to stand up for those people. To stand up for what he believed was right.

Reading books about great leaders, unlikely heroes, and characters who overcome adversity can give our own children the opportunity to think about the difficult or ugly parts of the world around them, and the courage to stand up for what they believe is right.

The best thing we can do as parents is to guide our children on their own “Hero’s Journey”, give them the support they need to stand tall and take chances, and a safe place to land when occasionally they fall. If we can do these things, our children, and ALL children, will have the opportunity to become the hero of their own story.

Happy Reading,

RRmom_signature
Jenni Buchanan
Reading Rainbow Mom
Follow Jenni Buchanan on Twitter


thumbReading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Explore Mars with Curiosity!

Bill Nye.CuriositySelfPortrait

We are VERY excited to share today’s guest blog post from Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist at The Planetary Society, which is THE place to go for expert sources regarding planetary exploration, space policy, and the search for extraterrestrial life. The Planetary Society’s CEO is none other than Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Emily Lakdawalla is a passionate advocate for the exploration of all the worlds of our solar system. After reading her post below, WE’RE more excited than ever about off-world exploration as well. Read on!

Have you ever imagined going to Mars? Would you like to walk on Mars someday? No human has walked on Mars yet. We haven’t yet built spaceships that can take us there and land us safely. But humans are still exploring Mars. We explore Mars by looking through the eyes of an intelligent robot. Her name is Curiosity.

Every Martian day, Curiosity follows our instructions and sends pictures back home to Earth. YOU can see those pictures! Every day that Curiosity talks to Earth, you can go see the pictures she has taken, and explore Mars with her.

If you follow those links above you will find a LOT of pictures. Curiosity sometimes takes HUNDREDS of pictures every day! What are all of those pictures for? To answer that question, I have to tell you about Curiosity’s different kinds of cameras.

Just like you, Curiosity has a head on top of her body, with eyes that she uses to see the landscape around her. But Curiosity has more eyes than you do. There are seven “eyes” just on her head!

Bill Nye.Curiosity Head Shot

Curiosity uses four of her eyes to look around her — to figure out where she is, and where she needs to go. These are called Navcams (because they are for “navigation”). There are two Navcams on each side of Curiosity’s head. When you see sky, and mountains, and rocks all in one photo, those are Navcam images. Like this one:

Bill Nye.Left Navcam

See that mountain? There are cool rocks there. The rocks could answer our questions about whether Mars was ever warm and wet like Earth, or if it was always cold and dry. Is Earth the only place in the solar system where there was ever life? Curiosity is heading for that mountain to help us answer that question.

The scientists who work on the Curiosity mission can’t wait to get to that mountain. Have you ever been on a long car trip? Did you ask “Are we there yet?” The scientists working on the Curiosity mission are asking the rover drivers “Are we there yet?”

But we’re not there yet. Curiosity has to drive about six more kilometers (about four miles) in order to get there. That may not sound too bad, but Curiosity is not fast. It will probably take most of 2014 for Curiosity to get there. When you check Curiosity’s photos every day, look for that mountain. Is it getting bigger? Is Curiosity getting closer? Are we there yet?

So Curiosity looks around her (and you can look around with her) with the Navcams. When the scientists see something really cool with the Navcams, they say, “wow, I want a better picture of that.” Two more cameras on Curiosity’s head take beautiful color photos. Those are called Mastcams.

Scientists use pictures from Curiosity’s Mastcams to look closely at rocks to understand what they are. Are they lava rocks that came out of a volcano?

Bill Nye.Lava Rock

Are they rocks made of broken bits of other rocks?

Bill Nye.Broken Bits

Or do they have thin, flat layers, like they were made of the soft mud at the bottom of a lake?

Bill Nye.Thin Flat Layer Rocks

Sometimes, if scientists are curious enough about those rocks, they’ll tell Curiosity to look at them really closely. Curiosity can’t bend her head down like you can. Instead, she has an extra “eye” on the end of a robotic arm. This camera is called the Mars Hand Lens Imager. Here’s a picture from the Hand Lens Imager. What do you see in the picture?

Bill Nye.Curiosity Hand Lens

When Curiosity’s scientists first saw this picture, they asked the same questions you are probably asking now. What are those round things? What are those holes with the white stuff inside? And guess what? They didn’t know the answers. If they knew all the answers, there wouldn’t be any reason to explore! That’s why we sent Curiosity to Mars. To see new things, and ask new questions, and maybe to get some answers.

There aren’t any people on Mars yet. But people are exploring Mars, with Curiosity, and you can, too. Go check out Curiosity’s photos. You can ask all the same questions the mission scientists are asking. What is that? Isn’t that pretty? Isn’t that weird? How did it get there? What was Mars like when this rock was made?

You don’t have to wait to grow up to be a scientist. You can be a scientist right now, asking questions, reading books about space exploration, and exploring Mars with Curiosity!

Bill Nye.Emily LakdawallaEmily Lakdawalla is a Planetary Society blogger, podcaster, webcaster, Twitterer, et cetera. A true science cheerleader and total space geek, Emily is considered one of the most influential and passionate space bloggers around. Emily is a planetary geologist with a unique way of blending science facts and space news with a sense of whimsy, and, yes, lots of pretty pictures!


thumbReading Rainbow wants to thank Emily Lakdawalla for contributing to this week’s guest blog. We appreciate her support in our mission to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they can “Go anywhere. Be anything.“

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, or Kindle App in the Amazon Store; download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Open a Book and Explore the Universe!

Glowing book with earth

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” -Frank Borman

As human beings we love to explore. We begin as babies, exploring the rooms and home in which we live, expanding outward from there as we grow–to the backyard, our neighborhood, our schools and our towns, and eventually the wide world around us.

The “final frontier” of exploration is, of course, exploration of space! We build rockets and telescopes and space craft so that we may, either in person or vicariously through the lens of a camera, leave our world and get to know the vast universe around us. This is the essence of the human spirit, the desire to know and learn and never stop looking ahead to the next town, the next continent, the next planet or star.

But rockets and space craft aren’t the only way to explore the universe. Books provide us with another means of exploration. Through books we can follow astronauts out into space, join cowboys on the wild frontier, go with divers down into the depths of the ocean, or even go back in time!

This week our theme is Exploring the Universe! Join us in opening our eyes and our minds to see what new things are out there to learn and explore. Some people may think that because we’ve mapped the continents and charted the oceans there is nothing left to explore, but we know that nothing could be further from the truth! All we have to do to find a new frontier is to open a book!

What are YOU still eager to explore? How do you help your children look with curiosity at the world around them? What tools do you use to find the answers to your questions, and get to know the world–and the universe–around you? Join the conversation by leaving a comment, or feel free to e-mail me at mom@readingrainbow.com.

Open a book and be an Explorer!

Happy Reading,

RRmom_signature
Jenni Buchanan
Reading Rainbow Mom
Follow Jenni Buchanan on Twitter


thumbReading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Why and How We Write: Inspiring Quotes from Great Writers

Image from the movie "Shakespeare In Love"

Image from the movie “Shakespeare In Love”

As I was looking around for inspiring material to share during our Write On! theme this week I came across a number of inspiring quotes by famous authors about why or how THEY write. There were so many that I couldn’t share them all on Facebook or Twitter, but neither could I keep them to myself. So here, as a finale to our week about the joy & benefits of writing, are some famous authors to share their thoughts in their own words, and hopefully inspire YOU to write as well!

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ―Anaïs Nin

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ―Stephen King

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” ―Neil Gaiman

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ―Stephen King

“You can make anything by writing.” ―C.S. Lewis

“All writers are lunatics!” ―Cornelia Funke

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” ―Ernest Hemingway

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” ―Anaïs Nin

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.” ―Willa Cather

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” ―Ernest Hemingway

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ―William Wordsworth

Happy Reading and Writing!

RRmom_signature
Jenni Buchanan
Reading Rainbow Mom
Follow Jenni Buchanan on Twitter


thumbReading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Reading: It’s More Than A Pastime; It’s A Way Of Life

by Ronnie L. Smith of Writer’s Relief

As the owner of a small business that helps creative writers get their work published, I’ve always had an appreciation for storytelling.

I missed growing up with Reading Rainbow by a few years, but I am happily spreading the word about the new Reading Rainbow app. I’m sure I would have loved it if iPads had been around when I was learning to read!

As a child, I never asked for toys or dolls—only books. And I always wanted someone to read to me, especially when I was just starting out. The adults who encouraged me to read had a real, measurable impact on my life, just as LeVar Burton and the Reading Rainbow team had a direct, measurable influence on the generation of children who came after me.

In fact, I’ve benefited from the ripple effect of Reading Rainbow right here in my office. A number of my staff members credit Reading Rainbow with influencing their decision to make a career out of books.

Here at Writer’s Relief, we help writers get published by managing their submissions to literary agents and editors of literary journals. It’s important to me that my staff members have a genuine passion for reading—because at the end of the day, the work we do always comes back to that.

Here are just a few of the many stories from staff members who saw Reading Rainbow change the course of their careers and their lives.

Writers Relief Pic 1

Two Writer’s Relief staff members (and lifelong Reading Rainbow fans), Joe and Jess meet LeVar Burton.

JOE: I owe my love of reading and my commitment to writing to Reading Rainbow. From an early age, I was captivated by the way LeVar presented reading.

JESS: I’ve actually met LeVar twice as an adult, and both times—aside from shedding a few ecstatic, fangirly tears—I was struck by how incredibly warmhearted and passionate he was. The fact that Reading Rainbow is available today as a great new app is amazing.

Writers Relief Pic 2

Writer’s Relief staff member Jess with LeVar.

KRISTIN: My parents were very strict when it came to television privileges, but I was always allowed to watch Reading Rainbow. LeVar’s poised and soothing persona made him the perfect child-friendly host, and his well-rounded, quality recommendations made my parents more than happy to indulge my book craze.

As a woman who has built her life around creative writing, I truly believe that the future of books—of the entire publishing industry—lies in the hands of today’s children.

One staff member, Meg, told me that her two adult sons—in their mid-twenties—still remember the books they first encountered on Reading Rainbow. The habits we form as children are the most important habits of our lives.

Studies have shown that books teach empathy, compassion, and understanding. So to say that books change lives isn’t an overstatement: Teaching children to love reading today truly can make for a better tomorrow. Just ask any member of my staff.

We’re thrilled that LeVar and the Reading Rainbow team are finding creative new ways to use technology to bring the love of reading to children everywhere.

Writers Relief.RonnieSmithPresident1Ronnie L. Smith is the president of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping writers get published since 1994. Writer’s Relief sends its weekly free e-newsletter to 40,000 creative writers. She is also the founder of Web Design Relief, which creates affordable websites specifically for authors. When she’s not working, Ronnie enjoys singing in a local chorus, reading (of course), and creating mystery outings for family and friends.


thumbReading Rainbow wants to thank Ronnie L. Smith and the staff at Writer’s Relief for contributing to this week’s guest blog. We appreciate her support in our mission to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they can “Go anywhere. Be anything.“

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, or Kindle App in the Amazon Store; download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Write On! How Writing Helps Kids Become Happier, Healthier, and Smarter

magic pen (series C)

If there was a vitamin that was proven to improve your child’s grades, cognitive skills, memory, creative output, AND emotional health would you consider it? Of course you would! Well there IS something that can do all these things for your child, but it isn’t a vitamin… It’s writing.

Writing a little bit every day is hugely beneficial for kids, and as November is National Novel Writing Month, there’s no better time to start! But you don’t have to start with a novel, just a little bit is all it takes. Here’s how writing regularly can help your child become happier, healthier and smarter:

Writing improves memory. Writing engages two of the three cognitive learning styles: kinesthetic (transferring a thought to paper with the hands via a pencil or keyboard), and visual (seeing the words as they are written). If you were to say the words as you wrote them you’d have a triple-whammy!

Writing improves concentration. Writing can be a slow process, but it’s this very slowness that forces the mind to calm and focus on one thought at a time. This can be frustrating at first to kids who have grown up in a fast-paced world, but this is the “weight training” that will strengthen the muscle of the mind for later challenges.

Writing develops communication skills. Writing requires an organization of thought. Even when writing personal journals (to be read by no one but themselves) the mind begins to automatically organize ideas and thoughts in a logical sequence. This carries over into speech, debate, and even everyday conversation.

Writing encourages creativity and expression. It’s a creative process in which you choose words, craft sentences and use metaphor or visual images to express an idea. Writing opens doors in the mind which allows logical and imaginative thought to mingle, creating brand new connections and possibilities.

Writing improves emotional health. Writing (especially journaling) encourages self-reflection and exploration. It helps kids to organize and understand their experiences. Furthermore, writing stories or characters helps kids to get out of their comfort zone and try new things, or understand a new way of thinking.

So, now that you’re convinced of the benefits, how can you get your child to write regularly?

The easiest way is through journaling. Set aside 30 minutes once a week for writing. Your child may need a prompt to begin with (write a story about one of your stuffed animals, write about your summer vacation, if your pet turtle could talk what would it say?) but if you make writing a regular activity he will soon have plenty of his own ideas.

Some other great ways to get your child to write regularly are by writing letters to friends and family, making travel diaries (even if it’s just about a trip to the library), re-writing a familiar story or fairy tale, playing the “what if” game, and much more.

I started writing a journal when I was 10, and I’ve been writing ever since. I love having those old journals to reflect on, to help me remember what it was like to be young as my own kids go through the various stages of childhood. But beyond that, writing in those journals helped me get through some difficult times, allowed me to figure out who I was, and shape my character into the person I wanted to be. I hope regular writing will do the same for my own children.

If you have any questions or comments about the benefits of writing, or how to help your kids enjoy writing, please leave a comment, or email mom@readingrainbow.com.

Happy Writing!

RRmom_signature
Jenni Buchanan
Reading Rainbow Mom
Follow Jenni Buchanan on Twitter


thumbReading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

Books Kids LOVE to Read on Halloween

RyanM.Reading w Kids1

By Ryan Modjeski, Executive Producer at Reading Rainbow

Like most families, storytime in our house happens right between bathtime and bedtime. We get together under the warm blankets and each of my two children pick out a couple books to read. We like to split our reading between digital books and paper books, I don’t really press the issue either way, but my kids do revel in the privilege of seeing the newest Reading Rainbow books before anyone else in the world. As the Executive Producer of digital book production here at Reading Rainbow, I am the one in charge of making them after all.

The team at Reading Rainbow has been producing at least one new book a day for the last two years, building up our incredible digital library of quality children’s literature to what it is today, and I make sure to run each title past my kids before it goes live. If they don’t like it, I send it back!

I have to say these last couple of weeks leading up to Halloween has been especially fun in sharing books with my kids. It’s been great to fill their digital backpack with a seasonal selection of books and watch them play with and raptly listen to the stories.

Halloween Is

My five year old wanted to know the history of the holiday and when we reached the limit of my knowledge, we turned to Gail Gibbons’ Halloween is . . . and listened together then talked about ancient beliefs and customs.

three_bears_halloweenMy two year old, still learning the trick-or-treating ropes wants to listen to The Three Bears’ Halloween by Kathy Duval over and over. And over and over.

HalloweenForest-coverBut the real fun has been showing them two of my most favorite books we’ve ever made for Reading Rainbow (new to the library Oct 31st!) Halloween Forest by Marion Dane Bauer and Me and My Dragon Scared of Halloween by David Biedrzycki.

MeMyDragon_HalloweenWe read both the original paper version and the interactive digital versions and these books have kept them both slightly spooked, giggling with delight and drooling for candy for days on end. LeVar Burton’s narration on Halloween Forest is perfect and the interactivity in Scared of Halloween is so silly that my kids spend the next five minutes imitating the dragon, imitating Elvis.

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work with such great source material (thanks to our publishing partners) and to have such a awesome team of artists, animators and testers raising the bar every day for our readers. Enjoy!

Ryan

Ryan Modjeski is an Executive Producer at Reading Rainbow, and is part of the wonderful team responsible for bringing all of those favorite and fantastic new books to the Reading Rainbow App for our readers to enjoy!


thumbReading Rainbow wants to thank our Executive Producer, Ryan Modjeski for contributing to this week’s guest blog. We appreciate his support in our mission to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they can “Go anywhere. Be anything.“

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, or Kindle App in the Amazon Store; download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

The Library: Doorway to a Lifetime of Reading

Center for Preschool After

Books for Kids library

By Denise Lewis Patrick and Judy Gitenstein  

We have been friends and colleagues in children’s book publishing for nearly thirty years. In a recent conversation about our favorite books as kids, we talked about how much the library has meant to us from very earliest childhood.

JUDY: When I was five my brother, who was six, died of leukemia. I had so many big philosophical questions about what happened that my mother, in her wisdom, suggested we go to the library to look for the answers that she and my father couldn’t provide. This was the mid-1950s. The only books I found were stories about animals that died (Margaret Wise Brown’s The Dead Bird) or books for adults about the death of a child (John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud). But I did find many books about getting along in the world and overcoming difficult circumstances. If Stuart Little could venture out to find answers, so could I! This began a tradition for me of going to the library on weekdays with my mother and on weekends with my father. Going to the library as a kid and sharing special time with each parent is what made me a lifelong reader. Not finding what I needed led me to become a children’s book editor. Even now I love nothing more than to browse library shelves, just for fun and sometimes for answers. I guess you could say I’m a reading explorer.

DENISE: I had a different type of intense experience that shaped my intimate connection with libraries and books. I grew up in a small Louisiana town in the 1960s. Our black community didn’t even have a library, although there was a white public library downtown that we could not enter. A bookmobile (remember those?) came to our street, and my mother enrolled us in the Weekly Reader book clubs. When the town opened a small black library a few blocks away, we went.
The librarian there didn’t allow my brother and me to move beyond the limited children’s section. We were starved for variety, but she often loudly and forcefully reminded us that we belonged in the children’s section. Now that I come to think of it, that was a kind of eerie parallel to the fact that African Americans were reminded every day about the places we couldn’t go, like the white library downtown.

Integration prevailed; the black library was closed. My mom took us one momentous day down to the sleek, stone and concrete building overlooking our town’s riverfront. We had never been inside, and we were
mesmerized. There was a floor-to-ceiling glass wall and comfortable reading area that looked out over the water.

I’ll never forget hearing our mother say, “They can read from anywhere in the library.” We were free! Suddenly we had access to the entire world beyond our family and our community. Through reading, I became an explorer of words and stories. And I became a writer, too.

booksforkidslogoDenise Lewis Patrick (deniselewispatrick.com) has written fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Judy Gitenstein has been a children’s book editor for more than 40 years. They both serve on the Childhood Literacy and Author Board of The Books for Kids Foundation (booksforkids.org), which has built over 70 libraries around the country, allowing children who may not have access to a public library, or to books, to develop early literacy skills and a lifelong love of reading.


thumbReading Rainbow wants to thank Denise Lewis Patrick and Judy Gitenstein for contributing to this week’s guest blog. We appreciate her support in our mission to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they can “Go anywhere. Be anything.“

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