I grew up learning from LeVar Burton. During its quarter-century run, Reading Rainbow brought delight, humor and a sprinkling of sly wit to the educational airwaves, inspiring kids of my generation to think books were cool. The show forever cemented LeVar’s legacy as an advocate of reading and literacy. Among young Gen X-ers and older millennials, the show and its host are universally loved. (Evidence: Guess what Burton sang when he appeared on Community?)
So when it was announced that LeVar would be coming to my workplace, the Kansas City Public Library, on Friday, February 18, to read for a group of local schoolchildren, I wanted to make the most of it. (By the way, I won’t even go into my awkward adolescent love of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)
I’m of course not the only LeVar freak in the world. Fearing that fanboys would storm our substantial but not stadium-sized Children’s Library, we in the public affairs department decided to run a contest on social media to select five fans to meet LeVar. The goal: drive online buzz without driving unauthorized attendance.
Though Facebook‘s new promotional guidelines stymied use of what could’ve been a great platform for this small, local contest, we managed to use Twitter to good effect, which was appropriate given @levarburton‘s massive following. I devised the hashtag #tweetingrainbow for the occasion, and of four days, a total of 35 people posted/tweeted about their favorite childhood books to enter the contest. Of the five who won the chance to meet LeVar in person, several brought their kids.
My role at the event was content producer. I was determined to get a quick two-minute-or-less video of the event turned around before the end of the day. That meant I had to lay aside my inner-geek-child and do whatever it took to get good material.
So, around 1 pm, Flip Cam in hand, I arranged for a quickie interview with LeVar before the reading. I got to ask literally two questions before he was whisked off to talk to one of the bevy of local media people who had come to cover the event. Still, I did manage to get the shout-out and pretty much all of the reading, including the awesome, crowd-involving, Black History-themed performance by local author Shane Evans. I tied it off with some comments from one of our brilliant children’s librarians, Clare Hollander. I edited it and had it online in about 2.5 hours.
My personal interactions with LeVar were not memorable. I don’t even feel like I really got to meet him. He was absolutely great with the children and contest winners, but I was essentially a fly on the wall. But, hey, at least I got this: