Actor, Kickstarter fundraiser to speak at Feb. 5 ‘Doing the Dream’ event
KOKOMO, Ind. — When noted actor and “Reading Rainbow” host and producer LeVar Burton comes to Kokomo in February, local students and community members will have the opportunity to hear from the organizer of one of the most successful crowd-funding projects in history.
Burton is cofounder of the award-winning “Reading Rainbow” digital library set to spread across the United States this year as the result of a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5.4 million. He will be in Kokomo to share his passion for children’s literacy and living to one’s full potential as keynote speaker at a community banquet Feb. 5 and at a free student convocation Feb. 6. Through his personal stories, he will share the incredible impact mentors, technology and storytelling have had on his life and how the community – adults, parents and mentors – help facilitate education through many different paths, opportunities and experiences.
Tickets are going fast for the “Doing the Dream 2015” community banquet where he will speak and reservations should be made by Jan. 29. The banquet, set for Thursday, Feb. 5, is part of Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region’s annual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Community members, especially teachers, counselors, mentors, church leaders, government leaders and anyone interested in the future of young people, are invited to attend the “Doing the Dream Celebration with LeVar Burton.” Tickets for the 6:30 p.m. dinner and keynote speech are $50 each ($25 tax deductible). Reservations can be made online at ivytech.edu/kokomo/levarburton2015.html through Jan. 29.
As an actor, Burton is known for his roles as Kunte Kinte on the 1977 TV series “ROOTS” and as Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” feature films and the TV series, which ran 176 episodes from 1987 to 1994. For many youngsters, he is perhaps best-known as the host and producer of the PBS children’s series “Reading Rainbow,” which was on the air from 1982 to 2009. He has been the honored recipient of the Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children’s Media from Tufts University, 12 Emmy Awards, a Grammy and five NAACP awards, demonstrating in his career he can do it all, whether acting, directing, producing or educating.
Most recently, Burton has reimagined “Reading Rainbow” through his company RRKidz and its award-winning mobile library. Burton’s goal is to bring “Reading Rainbow” to “Every Child, Everywhere” through universal access on the web and in classrooms across the United States.
Begun as an offering on Apple’s iPad, the Reading Rainbow App became the number one educational app on iTunes, delivering hundreds of quality books and video field trips. He set a goal of expanding the app to the other digital platforms being used by today’s families, and ensuring underfunded schools could stream it for free – a goal achieved in one of the most successful crowd-funding activities of all time. Through Kickstarter, Burton raised $5.4 million in just 35 days last summer, not including a $1 million pledge from “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane, with 105,857 backers, setting the record for the most donors to a single campaign.
While his 30-minute television show once connected with a generation of youngsters, Burton knows today’s kids need something different – a digital version of the “Reading Rainbow” library. In an interview with people.com in May, Burton said, “We live in a digital world. This is necessary. If you want to reach kids today, you need to be in the digital realm.”
Along with digital books, the app includes video field trips like those on the original television series. “This is what the television show did so brilliantly,” Burton told people.com. “It took the literature we were exposing kids to and tied it to the real world, reinforcing the idea that you can go anywhere and be anything – just pick up a book.”
Burton will have an opportunity to share his message with members of the Kokomo Region’s “next generation” on Feb. 6 as Ivy Tech continues its “Doing the Dream” celebration with a free convocation for area students. A capacity audience of 1,000 is expected at the Kokomo Event & Conference Center that morning.