Reading Rainbow aired on PBS for 23 years and this week, Levar Burton raised more than 3 million dollars (and counting) to bring it back for the 21st century. As a parent I’m really happy about that. Reading Rainbow was a great series for kids and it will be again. In the age of the internet, video games, Netflix and thousands of channels of television reading can be a hard sell. If it doesn’t sound like fun, kids won’t do it.

However, the problem doesn’t end with childhood. Most people, including adults who don’t read, would agree that adults should read more. Adults have less free time than children and even more options for spending that time. According to a Pew Research poll conducted in 2013, 24% of American adults don’t read books.

On the surface a 76 percent rate for reading doesn’t sound bad, but all the poll says is 76 percent of adults say they read. Not many people will openly admit to strangers that they don’t read. Also, the poll only asked whether people had read a book in the last year. The median was 5 books in the last year, which means that for every bookworm out there there is someone who maybe reads one book annually.

Part of the problem, I think, is that people don’t know what to read or at least that they don’t get excited about it. There are book review and discussion programs out there, but most of them are fairly dry. Some of the programs have an almost funeral like atmosphere and others are so analytical that you’ll want an English lit degree if you hope to enjoy the program.

Nostalgia aside, Reading Rainbow made the books sound fun. From Wikipedia:

Each episode centered on a theme from a book, or other children’s literature, which was explored through a number of segments or stories. The show also recommended books for kids to look for when they went to the library.”

I’m not suggesting that it should be goofy and childish, but it is possible to recommend books and discuss literature without making it sound like a eulogy or a grad school thesis. There could be a host who was genuinely excited about books, with guests who were excited about books who share that enthusiasm with the audience. Rather than sit in a studio and have sober discussions, the cast could go to the locations where the books are set or locations that fit with the books theme.

It doesn’t even have to be purely about fiction. Science, history, politics, and other topics can be exciting if you find people who are excited about them and are able to communicate that. The show doesn’t have to have Levar Burton either, though it would be nice.