The power of storytelling: LeVar Burton to speak April 2 as part of Assembly Series

Talk is annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture


LeVar Burton has played some of the most iconic characters on television, from young Kunta Kinte in the 1977 television miniseries “Roots” to Geordi La Forge in the sci-fi favorite “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

But his most memorable and influential role came as host and executive producer of the groundbreaking and award-winning PBS program “Reading Rainbow,” which aired from 1983-2009.

An entire generation grew up watching “Reading Rainbow,” an educational television series that encouraged children to read.

Once the show went off the air, Burton and a business partner decided to create a new platform for “Reading Rainbow” that would appeal to today’s generation of tech-savvy children.

During a Washington University in St. Louis Assembly Series talk at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2, in Graham Chapel, Burton will discuss how he has combined the power of storytelling with today’s technology to create a Reading Rainbow app that is accessible and relevant to yet another generation of children.

Burton’s talk is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture. Sponsored by the Association of Black Students and funded by Student Union, the program is free but seating for the public may be limited.

The “Reading Rainbow” television show became a part of the cultural fabric, earning millions of fans and garnering more than 200 broadcast awards, including a Peabody Award; 26 Emmys for the show; and several individual awards for Burton.

When it first aired in 1983, the approach of using television to teach literacy was new, but its popularity and longevity served as a testament to the power of storytelling.

Seeing the possibility of adapting the “Reading Rainbow” concept for the wired generation, Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, released in 2012 the Reading Rainbow App for the iPad. In less than two days, it became the most-downloaded educational app offered by iTunes.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Burton expanded the app’s access to the web, smartphones, streaming devices and game consoles. The mobile app is available through

A classroom version with the subscription fee waived for up to 13,000 schools in disadvantaged communities was also created.

For information regarding seating for this program, visit or call 314-935-5297.