Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"We believe in the power of storytelling." - LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton at USC
Back in the day, when we had three children ages 5 and under,  Reading Rainbow was our favorite TV show. It was also one of our only TV shows as I had my husband break the set someone gave us so it would only get Channel 2. I was so against TV in my home that it was a major compromise on my part to have that much television.  Our daughter's godmother gave us her old TV so we could watch videos on the VCR someone else gave us. Yes, we were poor back then AND I was even more of a butt pain than I am now. Hard to imagine, I know. 

Turns out that LeVar is signing my song about storytelling. This is great news. He is not a butt pain and I have always been a huge fan of his and the books that he chose for Reading Rainbow are still classics. Burton's ideas are sound and they are a welcome antidote to the wrong-headed thinking of David Coleman, architect of the Common Core, who disdains literature and wants students to read "information based texts". 

 "An oft-repeated assertion of self-proclaimed Common Core architect David Coleman is that non-fiction is where students get information about the world and that's why schools must stop teaching so much fiction. In this assertion, Coleman is echoing the corporate world which he is hired to serve." 

Coleman's attitudes mirror Bill Gates' who also has little use for literature in education.  We need a heavy hitter like LeVar Burton to even up the score.David Coleman said that he believes in emphasizing so-called “informational texts” over literature and have the "the core standards for the first time demand that 50% of the text students encounter in kindergarten through 5th grade is informational text…" But Mr. Coleman was not quite done. He rocked on as he spoke at a New York State  Teacher's convention and added this beauty of a statement:

“[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a s%$* about what you feel or what you think.” - David Coleman

Right on, LeVar Burton ! You will have an uphill battle and are fighting some very well resourced adversaries.  The Ed Reform movement has no place for education or any reforms that empower and enliven students unless they can make a buck off it. But you, LeVar, you will have all of human history, biology, neurology, pedagogy and child development on your side. Oh yeah, and most teachers and all of us storytellers too.

Reposted  from University of Southern California's News

LeVar Burton seeks to couple storytelling with education

Former Reading Rainbow host tells USC audience that storytelling is an ‘essential element of the human experience’

by Matthew Kredell
February 11, 2015

LeVar Burton discusses the importance of storytelling for youngsters. (Photo/Tom Queally)
When the iconic PBS program Reading Rainbow started in 1983, America’s children were hanging out in front of the television.
“We wanted them to read more, so we went on TV and steered them back in the direction of the written word,” said LeVar Burton, host and executive producer of the acclaimed program that ran for 23 seasons. “That was revolutionary. The conversation at that time was television was rotting the brains of our children and will be the death knell of education in America, and we were able to prove that wasn’t the case.” Burton explained how he’d like to see storytelling better integrated into education during a recent Holt Distinguished Lecture Series event presented by the USC Price School of Public Policy’s Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise.

Building the brand

After the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series went off the air, Burton and his business partner acquired the rights to the brand and turned it into the No. 1 educational application.
In 2014, he went to Kickstarter to help revive Reading Rainbow as a Web series, and it became the most popular Kickstarter campaign ever with more than 105,000 backers and a final tally of $6.4 million, well over its $1 million goal.
Children are now reading 200,000 books a week through the RRKidz app. The conclusion he’s drawn from the success of Reading Rainbow, both on television and as an app, revolves around the importance of storytelling to capture a child’s attention.
"We believe in the power of storytelling." - LeVar Burton

“Storytelling, being such an essential element of the human experience, is an invaluable tool in the service of educating our children,” Burton said. “That’s our secret sauce. We believe in the power of storytelling.”
“Having Burton as our Holt speaker was truly an honor,” said USC Bedrosian Director Raphael Bostic, who led the conversation. “His cultivation and development of the Reading Rainbow franchise is both interesting and innovative. His vision, passion and warmth were on full display, providing inspiration for me and our audience.”

From Roots to Rainbow

Burton made his acting debut as Kunta Kinte in the trend-setting 1977 miniseries Roots, while he was a student at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. He also played the role of Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

In addition, Burton won 12 Emmys in his roles on Reading Rainbow.
Where Burton hopes to have an impact on public policy is bringing storytelling into the classroom. He said the Reading Rainbow classroom edition will go through testing over the next couple months with the goal of being ready for the next school year in September. Burton hopes to see new education policy that would require literature and reading become more of an integrated part of all aspects of curriculum.

“Storytelling is a shorthand language that all human beings have in common,” he said. “My belief is that if we are successful in bringing more storytelling into the educational process, we will be more successful at educating our children.”