June 26th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

‘Reading Rainbow’ resurfaces as an app

By Sarah Edwards, CNN

(CNN) - Butterfly in the sky I can go twice as high. . . Remember those lyrics from the once popular children’s show “Reading Rainbow”? Well, it’s back, but this time not on TV – on iPad.

Last week, Reading Rainbow host, executive producer and actor LeVar Burton, launched the Reading Rainbow app through his for-profit company RR Kidz Inc. Burton says he hopes the app will have the same impact on a new, more “digitally-native” generation as the show had on kids in the ‘80s.

The app, like the show, is aimed at children ages 3-9, who are just learning how to read. Like the show, Burton plays host, this time calling himself “Curator in Chief.” He, along with digital animations named Jane and Austin, guides children on a hot air balloon ride through the chosen story. Burton said, “The child will be able to navigate islands in a hot air balloon . . . a metaphor for a journey, a literal way to transport yourself from one place to another. The islands are themed and a child can go to these islands and find videos as well as books. Reading Rainbow was famous for giving you a backstage tour, giving you an experience that was based in the real world that was related to the literature and the featured book in every show and so the video field trips are a key component.”

The free app contains 150 books and 16 video field trips. However, to gain the full experiences parents will have to shell out $9.99 per month. That’s pretty pricey, considering the original program was free and widely available on PBS. Burton acknowledged the issue, but hopes that the education system can help bridge the gap. “We are aware that there are a lot of folks out there who don’t own iPads and can’t afford the $9.99 subscription price. We will be working, in the fullness of time, with schools, teachers and school districts all over the country. One of my goals is to make this technology, in general, universally accessible to kids. We have the ability as well as the knowledge to literally transform the way we educate our children in the United States. . . I think that with this technology, putting a tablet computer in every child’s hands should be our agenda,” Burton said.
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