LeVar Burton announced this week that he will be launching a livestreamed version of his podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads,” for all age groups on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The former star of “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” said he wants to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I figured that during this difficult time I could contribute by reading aloud to folks who could use some diversion for themselves and their families,” Burton tweeted.
The Twitter livestream is an extension of Burton’s broader efforts to foster early literacy through children’s reading programs.
Burton was the host of the popular show “Reading Rainbow” for more than 20 years, introducing and reading books to children. The show, which premiered in 1983, became the most watched PBS program in the classroom and garnered more than 200 awards, including a Peabody and 26 Emmys, including 11 for outstanding children’s series.
The show was canceled in 2006, but with the support of Burton and his company, RRKidz, it was later relaunched as an iPad app in 2012. The app saw similar success, becoming the No. 1 educational app within 36 hours of its release.
Later, Burton started a Kickstarter fund to revive the show and its materials in 2014, quickly raising more than $6 million.
Its success was followed by a 2017 lawsuit from WNED, the PBS affiliate in Buffalo, New York, against Burton and his company for “theft and extortion” regarding a series of alleged trademark violations, including Burton’s signature “Reading Rainbow” catchphrase: “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” The lawsuit was settled later that year.
Despite these hurdles, Burton remained committed to providing accessible reading programs, introducing a weekly short story podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads,” in June 2017.
In a video shared on Apple Podcasts’ Twitter in February, Burton said that he began his podcast to spread his love for reading aloud and “to continue the relationship” with his fans that began with them as kids on “Reading Rainbow.”
The first video session of “LeVar Burton Reads” begins Friday on Twitter livestream at 6 p.m. EST.