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Posted on March 12, 2021 at 2:57 PM by Genesis Gaule
Growing up with no cable, PBS was the staple TV entertainment in our household. The Magic School Bus, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Arthur--all were favorites at one point or another, but one I always looked forward to was Reading Rainbow.
Hosted by LeVar Burton, each episode featured a children’s book and on-location field trips or special guests centered around the book’s themes or subject. Books would take LeVar and the audience almost anywhere--inside a New York fashion designer’s studio, to a Renaissance Fair, through the Amazon rainforest, or even to the final frontier! LeVar’s genuine enthusiasm--for reading and how it intersects with life--was infectious. I loved watching him celebrate diverse cultures, visit new places, and talk about science, art, and history. Even at a young age, it helped nurture my love of reading by encouraging me to explore the world and to “take a look [...] in a book” for myself.
Here are a few books from the show I remember fondly--many sparking interest in subjects I still love diving into today. But (as LeVar would say) ”you don’t have to take my word for it,” check them out for yourself from our library!
Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall
LeVar explores a living history village in New England and reads this book describing the life and work of an early 19th-century farming family in New Hampshire.
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger
Through this story based on a South African lullaby and folk story, LeVar shows the different ways people tell stories through song and dance. I can still sing the refrain of the book...
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
LeVar spends a rainy day inside and reads this book. The rhythmic rhyming prose and the rolling rumbling thunder-like narrator remains firmly planted in my memory.
The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble
Silly shenanigans ensue when Jimmy's pet boa constrictor escapes on a class trip to a farm.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
After a fire destroys their home, a family works together to save up enough money to buy a new chair to replace the one they lost.
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomi dePaola
In this vivid retelling of an old folk legend, a Native American boy dreams of creating a painting that will capture the beauty of a sunset. I was simply fascinated by the various traditional art forms and traditions that were highlighted in this episode.
Tag(s): picture books, pets, humor, Genesis Gaule, folk stories, First Nations, families, children's literature, African Americans, 19th century
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