In a matter of days, LeVar Burton raised more than $2.8 million from more than 64,000 people to bring back his hit television series, Reading Rainbow. The campaign promises to develop a web version of Burton's already-existing Reading Rainbow app, and a classroom version that, accompanied by teacher development materials, will be given away to "disadvantaged classrooms" as part of a solution to America's illiteracy crisis.
Reading Rainbow was originally broadcast for free on PBS, a nonprofit. But the Kickstarter doesn't mention that the money raised will go to Burton's for-profit company, RRKidz, which is backed in part by private investment firm Raymond Capital. It also doesn't explicitly mention that, while some 1,500 classrooms in poor areas will receive the classroom version for free, the rest will have to pay a monthly subscription fee, the Washington Post reported.
This is the language used by the Kickstarter:
The word "subscription" isn't mentioned anywhere in the Kickstarter campaign, and neither is the name of RRKidz. The campaign borrows from the language of charities to present Reading Rainbow as a solution to the American education crisis.
Burton and RRKidz did not respond to several requests for an interview.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. She covers the intersection of business and education.
Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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