Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign raises more than $4 million

The Reading Rainbow revival project has reached new heights. A Kickstarter campaign started by long-time host and producer LeVar Burton to expand the beloved PBS show digitally has raised more than $4 million, becoming one of the most successful projects in the crowdfunding site's history.

Since the critically acclaimed children's series was cancelled in 2009, Burton has been searching for new ways to keep the brand alive through new technology. Last year, he launched a well-received Reading Rainbow tablet app that contained hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books, video field trips starring Burton, and interactive elements. 

The actor, best known for his roles as Geordi La Forge from Stark Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte from the TV mini-series Roots, launched a Kickstarter campaign in late-May to seek $1 million to expand the new digital Reading Rainbow to mobile phones, game consoles  and content devices like AppleTV and ROKU. Rewards included autographed books, DVDs, school assembly appearances by Burton, and even dinner with Burton and some of his Star Trek alums.

Well, within 11 hours of launch, they got their $1 million. And the money kept coming in. Now, with one week left to go, Burton has set a new goal of $5 million, which would allow his team to set-up access to Reading Rainbow for free in more than 7,500 classrooms across the U.S.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Burton said that while Kickstarter is a new platform, he felt it shared the same spirit as PBS.

"PBS has always been 'supported by viewers like you.' So we felt like we were going back to the roots of the PBS model in a modern sense. That's exactly what crowdfunding is in my view."

Burton said he was shocked when the campaign rocketed past its fundraising goal on the first day.

"Every day of my life, people come up to me and tell me how much Reading Rainbow has meant to them. So I knew that there was love for the brand. I was just not prepared for how deep that love would run."

While he'll always love the TV show, in many ways, Burton is more excited by the interactive possibilities of Reading Rainbow 2.0.

"We're doing the same thing that we always did: We're highlighting books and we're giving kids access to them."

But now, kids can immediately read the books on their devices.

"That's the thing that we can do now that we couldn't do on television."