According to LeVar Burton, the host of Reading Rainbow, one in four children in America are growing functionally illiterate. Over the last two years, millions of people have read books on the Reading Rainbow tablet app for iPad and Kindle Fire. Many teachers believe that the Reading Rainbow app should be accessible for free in classrooms and across additional platforms, which is why Burton launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with a $1 million goal. That goal was surpassed in 11 hours.
The Reading Rainbow campaign has now closed after 35 days with $5,408,916 in total crowdfunding investment, provided by 105,857 backers. With the funding, Burton will expand the Reading Rainbow app to Android, Roku, Xbox and other mobile platforms. The app will now be available for free across thousands of classrooms in America. A classroom version of the app will be created for teachers and a web-enabled version of Reading Rainbow will be developed for the home, which is expected to launch in May.
Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, promised to match every dollar pledged following the $4 million mark to the $5 million mark if the campaign reached $5 million. MacFarlane’s $1 million is separate from Kickstarter because the crowdfunding website has a $10,000 pledge limit per person. This means that Reading Rainbow now has over $6.4 million in total funding.
Reading Rainbow received the Kickstarter record for the most number of donors for a single project at 105,857. This beats ‘The Veronica Mars Movie Project’ with 91,585 donors, the ‘Double Fine Adventure’ game with 87,142 donors and the ‘Torment: Tides of Numenera’ game with 74,405 donors.
Reading Rainbow is the fifth most funded campaign in Kickstarter history. The top four are: Pebble ($10.2 million), OUYA ($8.5 million), Pono ($6.2 million) and the Veronica Mars movie ($5.7 million).
Some of the gifts that will be given to donors include bumper stickers, magnets, app subscriptions, books, t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, picnic blankets, a limited edition Reading Rainbow Ouya console, an autograph, a recorded voicemail from Burton, a picnic with him or a private dinner with him. The donors that gave $5,000 can choose a school of choice to be among the first to receive access to the app first. And donors that provided $10,000 can select either a school assembly or public library visit from Burton.
Burton’s company will provide free access to the app for a year to at least 7,500 classrooms using the first $5 million in crowdfunding investment. His company will use the other $400,000 to provide free access for thousands of more classrooms. ”Reading Rainbow is back for every child, everywhere,” said Burton in the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter promo video.
Reading Rainbow was originally a children’s TV show that aired 155 episodes on PBS between June 1983 and November 2006. The Reading Rainbow iPad and Kindle Fire app launched in 2012. The app was built by LeVar Burton and his company RRKIDZ. It has a massive library of e-books, virtual field trips starring Burton and a reward system for reading. In June 2012, Burton presented the app at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The app became one of the most downloaded educational apps in the Apple App Store after that.
Forbes staff writer and social media editor Alex Knapp interviewed Burton last month when the campaign launched. Check out the video of the interview below:
“Butterfly in the sky. I can go twice as high. Take a look. It’s in a book. A Reading Rainbow.”