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After making its debut in 1983, the famed television program Reading Rainbow went on to achieve a 26-year run, became the most-watched PBS program in the classroom and win over 250 awards including 26 Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Award, among other honors. Now the program will be celebrated in a new documentary called Butterfly in the Sky from studio XTR.
According to XTR, the documentary film, currently in production, is set to chronicle the journey of the educational children’s television program and aims to “honor the show’s legacy and teach younger generations about this milestone in television history in our current era of distance learning.”
The film will feature archival footage and interviews with Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton along with the major broadcasters, educators, and filmmakers involved in the show that encouraged a love of books and reading among children.
Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb (GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, Jasper Mall) will direct. The Sidestilt Films production 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,” said Whitcomb. “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.”
Adds Thomason, “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.”
Butterfly in the Sky joins the lineup of XTR’s current slate which includes titles Ailey, Homeroom, Rebel Hearts, Ascension and the untitled Magic Johnson docuseries.
The announcement of the documentary film comes after Burton guest hosted Jeopardy! in July. During his week of hosting, the game show had announced that it would match the total winnings of all its contestants and donate the funds to the nonprofit Burton has been an advocate for called Reading Is Fundamental, which supports children’s literacy.
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