The history of the popular children’s educational program Reading Rainbow will be explored in an upcoming documentary from studio XTR. Called Butterfly in the Sky, the studio’s aim for the movie is to “honor the show’s legacy and teach younger generations about this milestone in television history in our current era of distance learning.” Of course, the show’s host LeVar Burton will be featured heavily with archival footage and new interviews.
Along with LeVar Burton, Butterfly in the Sky includes interviews with the major broadcasters, educators, and filmmakers involved in Reading Rainbow and believed in its message to encourage reading among young viewers. Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb (GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, Jasper Mall) is directing the doc. A Sidestilt Films production, the movie is produced by Bryan Storkel (Alabama Snake, The Legend of Cocaine Island) and executive produced by XTR’s Bryn Mooser, Justin Lacob, and Kathryn Everett.
“Reading Rainbow was my window into the big city and into diverse cultures,” Whitcomb said in a statement. “With segments like those in ‘Hill of Fire,’ ‘Liang and the Magic Paintbrush,’ and countless other episodes, Reading Rainbow was arguably the first time I encountered ‘documentary-style’ television as a young person, planting a seed that would inspire me for the rest of my life and lead me to where I am in my career to this day.”
Thomason added: “As a Mexican-American growing up in Houston, I was always surrounded by diversity. More than any show on television, Reading Rainbow reflected the cultures that surrounded me. When the book fair came to my school, I went straight for the Reading Rainbow titles. I didn’t know it at the time, but the show’s mission statement was manifesting itself in me. I devour books to this day and I know Reading Rainbow had a hand in that.”
“We are honored to tell the Reading Rainbow story and document the show’s incredible work to increase literacy for children around the world,” Lacob, head of development at XTR, also said. “Decades later, the impact of Reading Rainbow still lives on through my lifelong love of reading which I share with my own kids.”
Reading Rainbow first premiered on PBS in 1983 and would go on to last for 21 seasons, concluding its run in 2006. It was hosted by LeVar Burton coming off of his acclaimed role in Roots with the actor along with celebrity special guests delving into a different children’s book with each episode. Designed to encourage a love of reading with children, the series has won 26 Emmy Awards, including 10 for Outstanding Children’s Series.
News of this documentary follows LeVar Burton’s campaign to serve as the host of Jeopardy! which ultimately didn’t happen. With fans petitioning for the game show to bring him in as host following Alex Trebek’s death, Burton served as a temporary guest host for one week in the summer. It was later announced that executive producer Mike Richards would be permanently hosting the show, though he’s since left the series completely. Mayim Bialik has been brought back in to fill in for Richards and there’s no word yet on if Burton will guest host again before a new full-time host is named.
It’s not clear when Butterfly in the Sky will be released. Meawnwhile, for more from Burton, fans can check out his podcast LeVar Burton Reads, which features Burton diving into new stories in every episode. This news comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.