Some sad news this morning from NPR: Reading Rainbow, the 26-year veteran of children's television programming, airs its final episode today. The show has won more than two-dozen Emmys, and is the third longest-running children's show in PBS history, after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers.
The show is ending because no one will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights, says NPR. They also report the opinion of John Grant, head of content at WNED Buffalo, Reading Rainbow's home station:
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading -- like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read -- but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.
"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading -- [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."
Yes, the basic tools are important, but they have to follow the love. (I'll spare you my usual rant about the many failings of No Child Left Behind--but see the addendum below.)