Levar Burton to receive Lifetime Achievement Award at Children’s and Family Emmys

The former host of "Reading Rainbow" has won many accolades, including 12 Daytime Emmys, throughout a luminous career that spans four decades.

LeVar Burton will be honored at the inaugural Children’s and Family Emmys in December, where the veteran actor will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The former host of Reading Rainbow has won many accolades throughout a luminous career that spans four decades, including 12 Daytime Emmys, a Peabody Award, a Grammy Award for Spoken Word Album and the Fred Rogers Award.

Veteran actor and former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Children’s and Family Emmys in December. (Photo: Ian Tuttle/Getty Images)

“Whoa,” Burton wrote on Twitter in reaction to the Lifetime Achievement Award announcement Tuesday by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Children’s programs were previously nominated for Daytime Emmys. This year, the Children’s & Family Emmy Awards will take place on Sunday, Dec. 11 in Los Angeles. Per its original website advisory, NATAS notes that “eligibility rules and the call for entries for the Children’s & Family Emmys will be announced separately in 2022.”

“NATAS has always been a leader in recognizing and celebrating excellence in our industry, and nothing is excelling and expanding more dramatically than the children’s and family community,” said Adam Sharp, NATAS’ president and chief executive officer. “Recent years have seen explosive growth in the quantity and quality of children’s and family programming, and now is the perfect time to acknowledge and honor this impactful content with a dedicated competition and celebration.”

As reported previously by theGrio, the Burton-helmed Reading Rainbow ran for 26 years. The children’s educational television program received more than 250 awards over its impressive run, during which it became the most-watched PBS program in the classroom.

According to NPR, when Reading Rainbow was canceled in 2006, Burton teamed with WNED to expand the brand via a licensing agreement to develop digital products. The program has been rebooted as Reading Rainbow Live, with a group of 20-somethings serving as hosts called “The Rainbows,” the outlet reports. Burton also launched the Reading Rainbow app through his company RRKidz. 

Meanwhile, the famed program is getting the documentary treatment from studio XTR titled Butterfly in the Sky. Directed by Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, the documentary will reportedly feature archival footage and interviews with Burton, as well as “major broadcasters, educators and filmmakers involved in the show that encouraged a love of books and reading among children.” 

Reading Rainbow was my window into the big city and into diverse cultures,” Whitcomb said in a statement, TheWrap reported. “With segments like those in ‘Hill of Fire,’ ‘Liang and the Magic Paintbrush’ and countless other episodes, Reading Rainbow was arguably the first time I encountered ‘documentary-style’ television as a young person, planting a seed that would inspire me for the rest of my life and lead me to where I am in my career to this day.”

“We are honored to tell the Reading Rainbow story and document the show’s incredible work to increase literacy for children around the world,” said Justin Lacob, head of development at XTR. “Decades later, the impact of Reading Rainbow still lives on through my lifelong love of reading, which I share with my own kids.”

In related news, Burton will host the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee in June. Most recently, he served as guest host of Jeopardy! after the death of longtime host Alex Trebek in 2020.

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