Butterfly In The Sky
About the Film
The TV show Reading Rainbow made an indelible mark on an entire generation of children who were lucky enough to catch it when it first aired on PBS in 1983. For twenty-one seasons we enjoyed following along with host LeVar Burton as he engrossed us in various tales and passed down life lessons that are still utilized to this day. He made libraries and books cool and accessible, and reading something to enjoy, not just homework.
The new documentary BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY by directors Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb explores the origins and impact of this television show, and the mark it left on the people involved in making it.
With interviews from the original kid actors who reviewed the books on the series, to celebrity interviews, to in-depth coverage with the man himself, LeVar Burton, BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY provides a complete picture of this frozen-in-time piece of children’s television programming that has stood up through the generations.
The archival footage in this documentary took me immediately back to my childhood, as this was part of my daily TV viewing (after Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood). Watching it gave me the same warm feelings now as it did then (albeit with a large hit of nostalgia). In a time when children’s education has been compromised by lack of funding, qualified educators, and enraged partisan parents (and politicians), Reading Rainbow stands apart like a welcoming hug from an old friend.
BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY delves into how Reading Rainbow was more about storytelling than reading. Less about learning to read, and more about loving to read. By exposing youths to a variety of stories, from a diverse group of authors, by a Black host, gave children an education not just in reading, but in not judging a book by its cover, and Black children a role model on TV that looked like them.
Reading Rainbow having a Black host mattered to so many people of color, and BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY examines that impact. We are also treated to an interview with the creator of Reading Rainbow, Dr. Twila C. Liggett, a former teacher who recognized how children loved to learn but was disillusioned by how schools focused more on grades and testing than on reaching children and exploring what ignited their minds.
This colorful and accessible documentary does more than tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of my childhood, it shows how much this show mattered to so many people, and why it had a lasting impact almost forty years later.