A happy new addition to Netflix that started streaming this month is “Reading Rainbow.” The show has been off the air for nearly a decade, but a volume of reruns have made it onto the site. There are no new episodes but that is fine. The first episode in the Netflix collection, in all its ‘80s glory, stirs up fond memories rather than attempting to build new ones. In watching that first nostalgic episode in Volume 1, it occurred to this writer that the show holds up well. Though the episode is from the ‘80s, the book that is featured is known to people of all ages: “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
“Reading Rainbow” did something unique from other shows based on books. Rather than just creating a TV episode following the plotline of a book, and using some creative license along the way, the actual stories of books are just one small part of the entire show. For the episode featuring “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” the book is quickly read and illustrations are shown. The book is a picture book with a small word count, and the episode is twenty seven minutes long. If it only takes a few minutes to read the book, then other things need to happen in order to fill up time.
The point of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” is that our actions can cause a chain reaction that has the ability to come full circle. The reading of the story on the show leads to a real life lesson in bowling and how bowling balls are made. For instance, rolling a bowling ball down a bowling alley leads to the knocking over of pins and then the ball being returned to the owner. This is a chain reaction. Likewise, when bowling balls are made in a factory and sent through a cycle of machinery, that is also a chain of events. The last chain reaction that is covered is the setup and knocking down of a complex domino pattern. When the dominoes are knocked down in the pattern shown in the show, the finish line is next to the start line.
It’s sad that “Reading Rainbow” is off the air, because it’s not just story time. It uses real life situations to explain the meanings behind the stories. Because “Reading Rainbow” is so old, it might be interesting to make a similar show with adult books and targeted at an adult audience. Many adults with young kids remember watching “Reading Rainbow” as children, and they might like a show where excerpts from an adult bestseller are read, a synopsis is given, and then the rest of the show could feature examples of the meaning behind the book. There are plenty of books where this would be easy, because adult books are often rich with difficult lessons that the main characters must learn. An adult revival would provide the same uniqueness as the original show and could very well find a loyal audience.