My Living Nightmare Of Encouraging Kids To Read Is OverCommentary • Opinion • children • tv • ISSUE 45•39 • Sep 24, 2009 By LeVar Burton Thank god.After 26 long years, I can finally rest easy. Twenty-six years I spent standing in front of a camera, gritting my teeth, and shilling the latest works of every hack children's book author imaginable. For 26 years, I've told kids they could open a magical door to another world just by reading a book, when the only door it ever opened for me led to a soul-sucking career in the horrifying abyss of public television. But now, at last, it is over. I don't have to lie anymore. I don't have to live that nightmare.When the news came that Reading Rainbow would be canceled due to a lack of funding, I felt—well, to use a cliché like you'd find in one of the hundreds of books I pimped endlessly—like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Every day I went to work hoping that maybe the studio had burned down, that maybe the program had been cut, that maybe PBS would finally stop squeezing the life from me drop by drop. Now that it's over, I feel the relief a bruised and broken soldier must feel when he is rescued after rotting away for decades in some dank, forgotten POW camp. May that godforsaken show burn in hell. At long last, I can pick up a book and read for pleasure! Haven't read one in ages. You know what I was reading during those 26 insufferable years? Scripts. Scripts for roles that went to actors who weren't stigmatized by their association with a TV show occupying the time slot right after Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.I happen to be an accomplished actor. I starred in Roots, which was the most-watched show in American television history. My stirring portrayal of Kunta Kinte got me an Emmy nomination. But you know what? At 25 years old, when the opportunity to earn a regular paycheck working on a children's show came along, it seemed like a pretty damn good idea.I was dead, dead wrong.Little did I know the next quarter century of my life would be an unrelenting blur of excruciating trips to some of the most boring places on earth. Apiaries, steam trains, old mills—every week they sent me to a fresh hellhole, and every week I had to interview the dullest people imaginable. And those humiliating books. Maebelle's Suitcase and The Jolly Postman. These were not the classics. Anyone who could glue paper between two pieces of cardboard and hire a publicist could get a book on that show. And there I was, in sheer agony, trying to keep a smile on my face while talking up Germs Make Me Sick!Before long, people began recognizing me on the street, and inevitably they'd come over and start singing this awful, cloying tune. When I finally asked somebody what the hell it was, I was sickened to learn that it was the show's theme. I'd never heard it. They didn't play it on the set, and Lord knows I never saw one episode of that garbage when it aired. Hoping to escape Reading Rainbow's clutches, I started taking any role I could get. I'm proud of some of them: I played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Martin Luther King in Ali. But you know what the most challenging role of my career was? Hosting Reading Rainbow and acting like I gave a shit about getting kids interested in books. Fact is, I couldn't care less whether kids learn to read. There, I said it. Look, Reading Rainbow was a television program. That should tell you something right there. What I should have done is hosted a show that taught children how to watch more television. I bet they would have come up with the funding to renew that show.All I've done for 26 years is drive to work, clock in, read my lines, clock out, go home, and cry myself to sleep. Now I'm much older, a broken man, but I've reached the end of my terrifying journey. And do you know what's at the end? Do you what's at the end of the "Reading Rainbow"? A giant crock of shit, that's what. But you don't have to take my word for it.