LeVar Burton Brings ‘Reading Rainbow’ Brand Into 21st-Century

Actor talks iPad app, entrepreneurship and education

LeVar Burton chats with BlackEnterprise.com SXSW correspondents, Mary Pryor and Mike Street, at SXSW (Image: Mary Pryor)

“Take a look, it’s in a book…Reading Rainbow!”

If you say those words to anyone who grew up in the ‘80s, they’ll likely start belting along to the theme song to the third longest-running children’s show in PBS history. The show, hosted by actor and executive producer of Reading Rainbow LeVar Burton, still remains a leading example of stellar educational television programming. And while many thought its 2006 end date was the close of a chapter, Burton has repositioned the 26-year-old brand, offering a digital product that today’s preschoolers can appreciate.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Burton for an exclusive interview at South by Southwest (SXSW) to discuss his commitment to technology, the importance of entrepreneurship and what’s next for the Reading Rainbow app.

On the Reading Rainbow App

Burton and his business partner Mark Wolfe debuted and demonstrated the Reading Rainbow iPad app at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2012. It officially launched a few days later and is available in the iTunes Store. Just 36 hours after it debuted, the Reading Rainbow app became the No. 1 educational app on iTunes.

“The mission of ‘Reading Rainbow’ has always been to use the prevailing technology of the day in order to engage kids,” said Burton.  “We have these really incredibly engaging tablet devices that I believe hold the key to educating kids.”

The Reading Rainbow app is available for $10 a month, or $29.99 for 6 months.

When it comes to other educational apps, Burton believes strongly that the success of the ‘Reading Rainbow’ brand coupled with a one-of-a-kind product is what sets his app apart from the rest.  “I think we have a few key differentiators within our app. We are a reading experience, currently available in the IOS platform and we are transitioning onto Android within about a month.  We are a library of books and videos of all new content.”

Burton and his team launched the app on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, making it the first time an app launched on nighttime television.

“Not many people spend $30 on an app on a monthly basis. But for the education of their children, they will!”

The ‘Reading Rainbow’ app will be pre-loaded on the Toy’s “R” Us tablet by Christmas 2014.

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