“LeVar Burton Reads” Finds a New Way to Inspire Literacy

Before LeVar Burton was Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge on the U.S.S. Enterprise, he was Kunte Kinte, a young African who was captured by slave traders and brought to the United States. Although he portrayed the character in just two of the miniseries’ eight episodes, Kunta Kinte remains one of the most prominent roles of his career.

For many children, however Burton is known, not as Kinte or LaForge, but as the host of Reading Rainbow. A critically acclaimed educational show Reading Rainbow ran 155 episodes on PBS from 1983-1986, winning 26 Emmys in the process.

In 2014, Burton spearheaded one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history, garnering nearly $6.5 million in contributions, and reinvented Reading Rainbow as a mobile app once again advocating children’s literacy, particularly for underprivileged and low-income students.

Now, Burton is involved in a new project, aptly named LeVar Burton Reads. Instead of promoting literacy through an app or a television show, Burton connects to his listeners the old-fashioned way: by telling them a story.

Burton’s entire career from Roots to Star Trek toReading Rainbow has been defined by a sense of social consciousness. By breaking away from Reading Rainbow and focusing on his own projects, he believes he is able to pursue this advocacy more fully.

Burton believes that listening to a story “engages the listener in a way that visual storytelling does not.” His podcast allows people to read and enjoy a story on their own time, and also exposes them to new works of short fiction, stories that inspire people to grow, learn and connect with one another.

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