Butterflies in the Sky and Why Fans Give

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Reading Rainbow Poster

I’ve given some examples of fandom and what happens when fans go the extra mile only to be exploited in some way, and my last case in point for the research of crowdfunding and fandom is the much-loved PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) series, Reading Rainbow.

“Butterflies in the sky, I can go twice as high, it’s in a book, just take a look, a reading rainbow” (Smule.com, 2015, p. 1). This song conjures up nostalgia for people. Many of us grew-up watching the PBS show. So, come with me now as we go back in time to 1983 when PBS began airing Reading Rainbow. The show was an American made children’s television series dedicated to encouraging and helping children develop a joy for reading. The series aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from 1983 to 2006 (Wikipedia, 2015). Each episode focused on a shared theme within the books showcased and the books were shared in an entertaining way with the viewers. Actor LeVar Burton, who had then recently come off of a prestigious acting gig as “Kunta Kinte” in the miniseries Roots (1977), adapted from the book by Alex Hailey, brought a trusted voice and persona to the show. Like Sesame Street (1969) before it, Reading Rainbow  developed a big following of not only children, but also their parents, and it became a beloved series all over the world.

Fast-forward to 2014, LeVar Burton the actor, who hosted the television series, is more established. He’s older and is part of a big movie franchise known as, Star Trek. In May of 2014, he is on Kickstarter and he’s asking for donations to bring back Reading Rainbow. Wait. They are bringing back Reading Rainbow? I’d pay for that, wouldn’t you? Well, that wasn’t quite what Mr. Burton meant. The wording in the tagline for the Kickstarter campaign was, “Bring Reading Rainbow back for every child, everywhere” (Kickstarter, 2014), which was a bit deceiving. It definitely sounds like the show was going to be back on the air. But, sadly this was not the case. According to Burton it was going to be better, it was going to be an app for the iPad that children could use in classrooms and in their homes. The app was going to be used in low income school areas. It wasn’t just any app but an app that would provide children with the chance to become literate. You can find out more about the app on Burton’s Kickstarter video below:

Much like the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter, the Reading Rainbow campaign received donations quickly even beating Veronica Mars meeting their goals a full month before the deadline. The campaign started on May 28, 2014 and hit $1 million in less then one day, and their original goal was $1 million in 35 days. The fundraiser earned $6.4 million in donations in just five weeks and is one of the 5th largest grossing campaigns for Kickstarter (Ramisetti, 2014). What most people don’t know is that the company that headed the campaign, “RR Kids,” is headed by none other than LeVar Burton, and it is a for-profit enterprise. They plan on developing the app and opening it up to give to teachers in schools, but for a monthly subscription cost (Dewey, 2014).

Burton’s campaign again poses the question as to why people donate. Was it the nostalgia of watching the show during one’s childhood? Would people have donated if they knew that Reading Rainbow is already accessible to classrooms via computers and the Internet with many episodes available on YouTube? It’s hard not to be swayed by the positive message given by Burton for the campaign; he is a very charismatic person. Wanting to help kids to read, well that’s just down right admirable, but we definitely need to read the fine print and air on the side of caution. More than anything, we must make knowledgeable and informed decisions when giving of ourselves, be it monetarily or emotionally.



Barbas, S. (2001). Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars, and the Cult of Celebrity. Falgrave Publishers. New York, NY. Softbound Book.

Dewey, C. (2014). You might want to reconsider that donation to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/28/you-might-want-to-reconsider-that-donation-to-the-reading-rainbow-kickstarter/

Ramisetti, K. (2014). ‘Reading Rainbow’ Kickstarter campaign raises $6 million with help from Seth MacFarlane. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/reading-rainbow-kickstarter-campaign-raises-6-million-article-1.1853788

Smule.com (2015). Lyrics to the theme of Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from

Wikipedia (2015).  Reading Rainbow. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow


By Lari

Mother, wife, writer, teacher-one in all on any given day!

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