Reading Rainbow doc on Netflix will make you feel like a kid again

Butterfly in the Sky, a documentary about Reading Rainbow that’s now available on Netflix, is as much a film about the classic PBS program as it is a 90-minute time machine.

For viewers of a certain age, streaming it will take you all the way back to your childhood — back to a simpler time, to the halcyon days before everything was tethered to a digital grid. When TVs had static but books never did, and when a library card beckoned the intrepid and inquisitive to imagine a world we’d all later experience through screens.

Watching this documentary from directors Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, it reminded me how everything from the books that Reading Rainbow promoted to its theme song felt like an escape at the time. It’s hard to imagine now, but for a kid in the second grade, the show made you feel like stories opened up the whole wide world to you. Books were the stuff my wonder years were made of.

LeVar Burton, who has gray hair now but still the same approachable disposition, walks viewers of the documentary through the improbable arc of his career, from his portrayal of the slave Kunta Kinte in Roots to his Star Trek: The Next Generation character Geordi La Forge. For 26 years, he also served as the bighearted host of Reading Rainbow, a job that endeared him to a generation of children and saw him travel to far-flung locales to try and bring books to life.

When a book featured a volcano, Burton would venture out to a live one. When a plane was central to a story, the host strapped himself in beside a pilot and showed his young viewers what it really meant to go twice as high. He hosted episodes about everything from how to cope with fear to how children felt in the aftermath of 9/11.

I fell into journalism, I suppose, because I wanted to be a writer, the kind of writer Charles Bukowski was talking about when he said you shouldn’t even think of becoming one unless it comes bursting out of you in spite of everything. But I was a reader first, something for which Reading Rainbow I imagine deserves at least partial credit. And so Butterfly in the Sky is a nostalgic, wonderful, and necessary treat for people like me. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

News Article Courtesy Of Andy Meek »