Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
October 2003

Dr. Twila Liggett: Executive Producer and Creator of Reading Rainbow

by Pola Rosen, Ed.D.

While watching the successful 20-year-old PBS-TV program Reading Rainbow, one can’t help but think of the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which, in this case, is learning to read—a far more valuable “pot.” Dr. Twila Liggett, creator and executive producer explains the origin of the name: “rainbows are always appealing to kids and we wanted our mission to be understood.”

Dr. Liggett traces her roots to Nebraska where, as a state reading coordinator, she fulfilled her passion for reading and teaching. Shortly after earning her doctorate, she decided to work for a Nebraska educational television network. At that time, there were a few 15 minute long, curriculum heavy instructional shows in South Carolina. “I thought there was room for a show about the joy of reading that would really get kids excited about books,” said Liggett. Reading Rainbow’s programs carefully incorporate current literacy understanding with research, humor and entertainment to ensure that viewers will be absorbed and will remember the show even years later. In fact, “there is an incredible recognition by the 20-something and early 30-something group that recall the show and want to introduce it to their kids. I’m very pleased that young people remember our series with great affection.”

Research about Reading Rainbow has been ongoing through the years. “We always would pull two or three shows and work with a research firm that would go out and watch kids watching the show. We had enormous success in getting books in the hands of children,” said Liggett. Current research, completed recently by an independent group, is available on www.readingrainbow.net.

One of the amazing aspects of Reading Rainbow is that it’s put together by a small staff including 3–4 people who work year round on curriculum. The crew swells at production time with an additional 10–15 interns and production assistants.

Discussing how the content of the show and the books are chosen, Liggett averred that they work closely with the American Library Service for Children. The book has to be well written, the illustrations well done and the content reflective of the diversity of this country. “We look for a variety of issues that we think affect kids. We’ve done a lot of math and science to let kids know of their connection with reading.” If Reading Rainbow does a science book, they will have an expert review it, then take it into schools for teachers to read and finally follow-up with the teachers to see how students reacted to the books.

Many of the viewers are of Hispanic origin, therefore the show incorporates Spanish and English into episodes about stereotyping and different cultures. Using live actors, unusual in most children’s series, homelessness and its effect on families was examined in a show called “Fly Away Home.”

Liggett’s mentors included her father. “From the time I can remember, even before I went to school, he was reading to us and buying the latest books. My mom would take us to the library. I remember getting my first library card even before I could read. I remember loving books. We would play word games while driving in the car.”

Liggett believes passionately that parents should read aloud to their children, even when the children know how to read. She recalls fondly the principals who permitted her unorthodox teaching styles such as using kid’s stories as reading material.

Proud of the 20 Emmys that Reading Rainbow has won for Outstanding Children’s Series, Liggett points out that she operates under the aegis of the Nebraska Television station, in partnership with Buffalo (NY) WNED public television.

The ultimate goal of Reading Rainbow, Liggett underscores, is to reach kids with a literacy message; “to build an affection for and a passion for reading in the early years that will help us prevent something that is even scarier than illiteracy—aliteracy; when kids know how to read but choose not to.”

“Last year we had 50,000 kids across the country write and illustrate their own story. We’re right at the beginning of creating the Reading Rainbow Universe, of reaching kids on all levels.”#

City: State:

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2003.