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This LeVar Burton video will make your day. But don’t take my word for it.

This LeVar Burton video will make your day. But don’t take my word for it.


If you haven’t already heard, LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Reading Rainbow’s huge library of interactive books and video field trips to kids everywhere. The Internet’s response has been pretty positive overwhelming. In the first 12 hours of the campaign he reached his goal of $1 million. Then the Internet decided he “could go twice as high” and LeVar’s campaign eclipsed the $2 million mark this morning with no sign of slowing down.

There’s no doubt that this is fueled, at least in part, by people like me who grew up with Reading Rainbow and attribute their early love of literacy to the beloved PBS show. My mom, a huge early education advocate, commented on my Facebook status that she was “jumping for joy knowing that another generation will have the same opportunity to see the program” I had. (Full disclosure: my mom comments on all of my Facebook updates.)

But the success of this campaign goes beyond simple Millennial and Gen X nostalgia. There are three important elements driving its success:

1. The lovable LeVar Burton. I mean, just look at how sincerely he thanks the Kickstarter community for their huge accomplishment!

2. People get it. We’ve arrived at a point in the United States where we believe in and understand the power of early education. The hard work of earning a diploma starts long before high school. Students who can’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to not graduate high school on time. On average, people who graduate high school on time earn $260,000 more in their lifetime and live nearly a decade longer.

United Way gets it, too. Our early grade reading initiatives (like this one from New York) and high school dropout prevention programs (like this one from Detroit) are both crucial to helping youth reach their full potential.

3. People get to be a part of something big that’s doing something good. I realize not everyone can donate to a campaign but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines. If you’re passionate about literacy, here are ways to get involved:

  • Tweeting Rainbow: Tweet about your favorite Children’s Book and mention @UnitedWay.
  • Become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor: Pledge to volunteer and we’ll help you connect with great opportunities in your community.
  • Start a Student United Way: volunteering to read to kids is even better when you do it with friends. If you’re a college student, start a club on your campus and we’ll provide you with resources to host great service projects.