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levar burton

Pop Culture

LeVar Burton gives cheeky 'Reading Rainbow' segment for banned books

The segment, shown on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," featured banned titles like "Charlottes Web" and "Harriet the Spy."

Super Festivals/Wikipedia, Wikipedia

You've never seen a "Reading Rainbow" episode quite like this

“Reading Rainbow” might have had its last episode in 2006, but LeVar Burton hasn’t stopped being a book advocate.

The actor and beloved host has spoken out against the unprecedented levels of books banned in schools throughout the country—acting as executive producer do the 2023 documentary “The Right to Read,” and has partnered with the nonprofit MoveOn.org to create a limited-edition T-shirt that reads “LeVar Burton Says Read Banned Books.”

And recently on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Burton brought attention to the subject by resurrecting the popular kids show. Only this is unlike any “Reading Rainbow” segment you’ve seen before.

In the clip (which features the well known “Reading Rainbow” song with a few tongue-in-cheek lyric tweaks) Barton shows a group of kids a selection of banned children’s books, and shares the questionable reasons why they’re banned, including:

“Harriet The Spy,” because it “encourages spying.”

“Charlotte's Web,” because “talking pigs is disrespectful to God”

“Stella Read Me A Story,” because the author’s last name is Gay.

According to AL.com, this last title removal was done in error, since the last name showed up in a keyword search, but only further shows how flawed the system is if this is the basis for which books are being tossed out of the children’s section.

Burton also asks the kids why they think adults might be banning these types of books.

“Because they don't want their kids to learn and be successful when they’re older,” one kids says.

Another adds, “They don't want their kids to be smarter than them.”

If they had it their way, these kids would rather ban “racism, anti-diversity,” and “Barbies, because when you cut their hair you get their DNA and it’s weird.”

Watch the full clip below, which also shows the group take a little field trip down to a school board meeting so they can see exactly how a book gets banned:

What makes this skit so impactful (other than hitting peak nostalgia) is that Burton is actual involving kids in the discussion, and allowing them to express their own ideas and opinions on the topic. Empowering younger generations to make their own informed decisions does far more for their future that strict censorship.

This is clearly something Burton believes, and the reason why so many of us love him.