When Geordi La Forge left his career as helmsman and chief engineer of the starship Enterprise , he found a new calling—as a champion of literacy to Earth’s children. Known to us as LeVar Burton, he took the helm of Reading Rainbow in 1983. (I know the television sequence of events runs backwards here, The Next Generation not premiering until 1987 and all, but the man was a chief engineer… I’m sure he found some ripple in the fabric of space-time to exploit. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Okay, yeah, you do.)
But, after 26 years on the air, nobody is putting up the cash to renew Reading Rainbow‘s broadcasting rights (NPR story here), leaving a void in the world of peer-reviewed children’s literature. Having been on the air since before I was literate, I’ve taken it for granted that Reading Rainbow would always be around. Along with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street—which, by the way, are the only two children’s series that ran for longer on PBS—Reading Rainbow was an integral part of my generation’s upbringing—being raised on television as we were. We would watch it at home and in school, and it was not an uncommon occurrence for everyone in a room to spontaneously break out in the theme-song, which everyone knew. Butterfly in the sky… Not since 3-2-1 Contact had a song took such a hold of our developing minds.
So, in remembrance of a fine show with a noble purpose, let’s join together in song one last time. I can go anywhere! And, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (More on that below.)
We try to do our small part to support children’s books here as well. Jack and Todd chose Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as one of The 100 best Business Books of All Time, and we recommended others in a sidebar of the book called Business Books for Kids of All Ages. I’ve excerpted that below.
Business Books for Kids of All Ages BY REBECCA SCHLEI HARTMAN
Sometimes to think outside the box you have to draw outside the lines. Draw inspiration, that is, from unlikely sources. “All grown-ups were children first,” wrote Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. Whether it’s time to reevaluate, rejuvenate, or simply escape the demands of our busy lives, we recommend returning to the stories and lessons that were most impressive to us as children. The truths you’ll find there are timeless. Here are a few stories in which we find inspiration again and again.
Le petit prince, or The Little Prince, is Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s classic novella about a small, extraterrestrial boy who changes a grown man’s life by reminding him of simple truths too often forgotten with age: Children learn by asking questions. Flowers bloom when they are nurtured. Work is futile when it lacks purpose. You must experience the world to appreciate it. There is still time to make friends. And, perhaps most profoundly, On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux—”One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes” (63). The Little Prince will put you in a renewed frame of mind; you might even look up at the stars tonight.
Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, Jon J. Muth’s The Three Questions follows a small boy, Nikolai, as he searches for answers to three questions: “When is the best time to do things?” “Who is the most important one?” and “What is the right thing to do?” As Nikolai visits his animal friends and helps a few in need, he learns—with a little help from an old turtle named Leo—that he already possesses the answers. Jon J. Muth’s concise prose and serene watercolors make The Three Questions a contemplative read for children and adults alike.
Kevin Carroll’s Rules of the Red Rubber Ball is a creative little book with a big message for people of all ages: no matter what you do, pursue that which makes you most happy…and pursue it with abandon. For the young Carroll growing up on the streets of Philadelphia, the playground was his refuge and passion. Rules of the Red Rubber Ball is both his remarkable story of chasing that red rubber ball for the rest of his life, and also a powerful charge to dream big, take chances, and make time for play in everything you do.
In Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages, Marla Frazee uses Baby’s experience of learning to walk as a metaphor for knowing how to get out of a rut, take chances, overcome obstacles, and determine who and what to trust. It’s the earliest “try, try again” experience we have as humans. “See how different everything looks from here?” Walk On! reminds us that sometimes you have to stand on your own two feet to find a new perspective on the world.