Tuesday, September 08, 2009

At the Rainbow’s End

By Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 9/3/2009 8:08:00 AM

Unwilling to let the book close on the Emmy Award-winning Reading Rainbow, many in the educational community are signing petitions, donating money, and encouraging viewers to speak up in the hope of getting their beloved program back on the air.

Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton taped his last show in 2006.

“There’s nothing like it,” says Anne Dean Mackintosh, a retired teacher from Haddonfield, NJ, who started one such petition late last month when news broke that the show would stop running as of Aug. 31. “The show connects to kids without talking down to them, and makes it cool to read.”

Public television station WNED, which owns the rights to Reading Rainbow, pulled the plug on the show after underwriting grants that paid the publishing and residual fees ran out, says John Grant, one of the executive producers for the program and the chief content officer for the station.

Those fees just kept 155 old episodes in rotation, says Grant who added that a new production would have cost $2 million to $3 million a year. Even though Reading Rainbow stopped taping new shows in 2006, with host LeVar Burton officially stepping down in January 2007, costs still ran about $250,000 to $300,000 each year to keep it on the air for the last two years. “There were a number of [financial] obligations attached to the show,” Grant explains.

While the program remained in rotation, executives at WNED and PBS suspected it was more popular with educators than with general viewers.

Still, those librarians and teachers who continue to champion the 30-minute episodes are a passionate lot, launching a Facebook group, Wiki, a petition and an online pledge drive to try and get Reading Rainbow back on air.

“I don’t think $250,000 sounds like a lot to me,” says Mackintosh. “If the word had gone out earlier, I think they could have raised that.”

But while Grant says the outpouring for the 26-year-old show has been heartwarming, he is trying not to encourage viewers to send in small donations in hopes it will run again. “We’re not going to be able to bring it back at $50 a person,” he says.

Yet, although fans can continue to buy copies, or view episodes they taped from air for one-year after recording them, others aren’t yet willing to give up the possibility of resurrecting the program. “It affected a lot of adults as well as kids and there are a large number of people who feel strongly,” says Mackintosh.

Reading Rainbow, which celebrated reading by having Burton and other celebrities like Bill Cosby and Flavor Flav narrate stories, and featured children reviewing the books on air, is a distinct departure from the now-trendy programming that pushes phonics to teach kids how to read. And that may have been its death knell, in the end.

“Reading Rainbow was born out of the desire to encourage the love of reading,” says Grant. “And that wasn’t the priority anymore.”

Biding our time

The nights are cold, but the days sunny and warm... when the fog finally burns off. Right now the poultry are getting smarter than the fence, and each day another seems to be out, but too stupid to figure out how to get back in. Tonight I am going to just open the gate, put out feed, and go in at dusk, and hopefully everyone will be where they are supposed to be.

Our momma hen seems to only have produced one live chick that then got stepped on or was hatched unwell. Too bad, as it had really lovely little chick fuzz all over it, in lots of beautiful colors.

We lost all the tomato plants to blight in the last week, and even the tomatoes that looked ok seemed to turn to mush shortly after being picked. Next year we will have to treat the soil and the plants to avoid its happening again. It has made the chance to get some heirlooms at farmer's market and at the local "local goods" store in Barre that much more of a luxury. Who would think that you'd not have tomatoes?? Very sad, really.

I had an appointment today and all seems well, heartbeat sounds great, weight is gaining as it should, belly size increasing as it should. He is certainly enjoying putting his toes up on my ribs! And he is definitely head-down now... which is probably the hidden reason behind the giant contraction and subsequent episodes of small contractions since last week. My midwife did say no more childcare at home... and normal activity only as it seems tolerable. Naps naps naps! And, let's get to week 35! (Four more weeks to go!)

The kids loved being up at camp in Island Pond with their dad, and I have to say, I miss it myself. They went fishing, and saw a moose, and just enjoyed the woods. Nadia began asking when we were going to go get them late on Sunday... and I was surprised she knew it was time! But I had to tell her they wouldn't be home until the next day, and even though she missed them, it made watching her run out to greet them yesterday afternoon that much more exciting.

Speaking of greetings, their bus just arrived, and here they come up the driveway for a quiet afternoon and some chores and homework.

Love to you all!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The mist slowly filled the valley as we walked home by the light of a three-quarter moon last night. Sweet-n-sour fresh apple taste stuck to our tongues from the apples lining these old farm roads, and the cold air nipped at our noses. We talked of everyday things, acted silly, and spoke of the magic of mists... could I really walk through them and end up in another time and place?

Here, in this moonlit night, it would seem the buildings call us to a time 100 years ago or more in Northern Vermont.

As the crisp smells of autumn stick to us all, we prepare for the coming of winter, and the coming of little Milo. The hens have hatched a small batch of chicks who will be needing a heat lamp soon, and what little grew in our kitchen garden is readying for harvest.

Friends come to play most days for the next month until the baby is closer to arrival, when Nadia and I will take time to just be at home, readying ourselves and our space. In the meantime, toddlers, preschoolers, and after schoolers prance around the house, singing, building, painting, using clay, and playing trains especially. Right now 3 of them, Nadia included, are building a fort under the old farmhouse table in the living room with my grandpa's wool military blanket (better known to us as the beach blanket), and we are waiting for the cool air to warm in the September sun.

I have gotten tired of longing for the days when I used to be involved in the Center for Northern Studies, and have instead invited people to come here and speak, eat a potluck dinner, and hang out. And today I begin my coursework in education at a small state college, hoping to somehow roll my interdisciplinary interest in how we learn, and how we raise children, into a license and degree. Maybe a little independent study in the sciences and understandings of the North will be in play.

And now... to go searching on an adventure for chicks, and apples in the yard. Maybe we will even collect some leaves to imprint in the clay.