‘Reading Rainbow’ host to talk on literacy rates, higher ed.

April 20, 2015

April Wefler
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The man who motivated many students to read is coming to speak at UCCS.

LeVar Burton will speak about the importance of literacy on April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Gallogly Events Center. Burton is best known as the host and executive producer of PBS’ children’s program “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006.

“I think it’ll be great. I actually need to get a ticket for it. [LeVar’s] like my childhood,” said Cierra Boykin, junior political science major.

Burton, who is also known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in the 1987-1994 “Star Trek: Next Generation” and as a young Kunta Kinte in 1977’s television mini-series, “Roots,” will speak on literacy rates in the United States.

The talk will focus on how higher education can help contribute to or be involved with improving literacy rates.

“It’s going to affect [students], it’s going to affect future generations and it’s really going to come from someone who knows a lot about this subject,” said Stephen Cucchiara, assistant director of the Office of Student Activities.

The talk, originally intended for April 14, was rescheduled due to an invitation for Burton from the White House.

Cucchiara is among the many who watched “Reading Rainbow” as a child. The series was nominated for two Primetime Emmys, won 26 Daytime Emmys and earned an 8.5 out of 10 rating on imdb.com.

“I’m excited because I watched him growing up and he helped motivate me to want to read,” Cucchiara said. “I wasn’t really allowed to watch a lot of television, but that was one of the shows where it was cool for me to do.”

Cucchiara said that OSA asked a variety of students last summer who they wanted to come speak on campus. The students compiled a list of speakers, among them Burton. Then Cucchiara reached out to the campus, gave them the list of names and UCCS chose Burton.

“I think it had to with the relatability, growing up and watching ‘Reading Rainbow’ or ‘Star Trek,’” he said. “My hope is that students really have an opportunity to engage with him about the importance of literacy and find ways to advocate in their professions, in their everyday lives that reading is important.”

Cucchiara added the announcement that “Reading Rainbow” was returning on a digital platform might’ve affected the choice of speaker as well.

In May 2014, Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring “Reading Rainbow” back, according to E! Online.

The goal was to raise $1 million in 35 days, according to People. Over $1 million from 22,408 supporters was raised for the project on the first day alone. The total support for the campaign consisted of 105,857 backers that pledged $5,408,916 to help bring “Reading Rainbow” back for over 10,000 classrooms.

Thanks to the Kickstarter campaign, “Reading Rainbow” was re-launched for iPad and Kindle Fire. More information can be found on www.readingrainbow.com.

The talk is part of the UCCS Significant Speakers Series. Past speakers include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and Randi Zuckerberg.

Tickets for the event can be bought at the University Center info desk. The cost is $5 for students, faculty and staff and $20 for everyone else.