Reading Rainbow

The WORST episodes of Reading Rainbow

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Host LeVar Burton shepherds children through the exciting world of books with celebrity guest narrations, youth book reviews, and relevant cultural tie-ins.

Last Updated: 5/24/2022Network: PBS
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Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe
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#1 - Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe

Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired 6/16/1983

LeVar takes a camping trip with some young friends. They make a photo album of their trip and some other kids share their photo albums they made to show what they did over the summer. Carolyn McMahon narrates Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe, a story about a girl and her cousin who go on a camping trip with their mothers and ride in a canoe on the river.

Directors: Larry Lancit
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Hot-Air Henry
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#2 - Hot-Air Henry

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired 9/3/1984

LeVar goes to South Carolina to ride a hot-air balloon. In a totally unrelated scene (not mentioned in GPN's Reading Rainbow media guide), schoolchildren visit the Space Camp for Aspiring Young Astronauts.

Directors: Larry Lancit
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Simon's Book
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#3 - Simon's Book

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired 9/4/1984

In the feature book, a doodle goes on the loose and it's up to Simon to tame it. The reality is, books take many people and special machinery to make. Such is explained in the song In The Bindary.

Directors: Larry Lancit
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Mystery on the Docks
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#4 - Mystery on the Docks

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired 9/6/1984

As LeVar explores the docks, Raul Julia narrates the story of Ralph, a short order cook who foils a kidnapping plot to hold Eduardo, a famous opera singer, hostage.

Directors: Larry Lancit
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Hill of Fire
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#5 - Hill of Fire

Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired 7/3/1985

LeVar visits Hawaii to get a closer look at active volcanoes. He studies lava and the way the earth changes after an eruption. Fernando Escandon reads Hill of Fire, a true story of how a volcano suddenly started to build up in a farmer's field in Mexico, and how the city then had to evacuate.

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The Tortoise and the Hare
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#6 - The Tortoise and the Hare

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired 7/4/1985

LeVar has entered a bicycle race. He's in competition not just with the other bikers, but with himself as well. This program also includes a lengthy piece on a karate class. Comedienne Gilda Radner reads the Aesop's tale of "The Tortoise and the Hare," about an arrogant rabbit that's over confident that he can beat a determined turtle in a foot race.

Directors: Larry Lancit
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The Milk Makers
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#7 - The Milk Makers

Season 4 - Episode 7 - Aired 7/1/1986

LeVar spends a day at the dairy seeing how cows are milked and understanding what care cows need. Alaina Reed Hall reads the story of The Milk Makers, detailing how milk is collected from cows, processed in dairies and sent to grocery stores

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Imogene's Antlers
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#8 - Imogene's Antlers

Season 4 - Episode 8 - Aired 7/2/1986

LaVar visits the Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania to learn about animals with horns and antlers. In today's featured story, a young girl wakes up one morning to discover she's grown her own pair of antlers.

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Germs Make Me Sick!
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#9 - Germs Make Me Sick!

Season 4 - Episode 9 - Aired 7/3/1986

LeVar goes on a search for microorganisms, distinguishing the good ones from the bad. An animated satire of Hill Street Blues (which ran 1981-1987) shows white blood cells ready to fight germs. Molly Mandlin reads Germs Make Me Sick!, explaining how people can catch colds and diseases from exposure to germs.

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Abiyoyo
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#10 - Abiyoyo

Season 4 - Episode 10 - Aired 7/4/1986

In one of the rare times Reading Rainbow uses a studio set, LeVar tells about storytelling through music. The then-new art of music videos is first up, with clips of Who's Johnny (among others). Pete Seeger appears on the set to perform his version of Abiyoyo. Also unique to htis episode: all the book reviewers share the stage with LeVar.

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Feelings
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#11 - Feelings

Season 4 - Episode 3 - Aired 6/25/1986

Pictures, dialogues, poems, and stories portray a variety of emotions we all feel - jealousy, sadness, fear, anger, joy, love, etc. Also includes Let's Make Music, Feeling Sad, Meet Koko and Penny and book reviews for Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, Fireflies! and Loudmouth George and the Sixth-Grade Bully.

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The Life Cycle of the Honeybee
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#12 - The Life Cycle of the Honeybee

Season 5 - Episode 1 - Aired 6/22/1987

LeVar visits a beehive to look into beekeeping and how honey is made. Barbara Feldon narrates The Life Cycle of the Honeybee, which goes into detail about how bees make hives in natural habitats such as trees.

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Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
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#13 - Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie

Season 5 - Episode 2 - Aired 6/23/1987

Sada Thompson reads the story of Abbie, the eldest daughter of a family that tends a lighthouse, and how she had to keep the lamps working during a storm while her father was in the city getting supplies. LeVar visits a family that runs their own sailboat tourism business and actually live on their small craft.

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Chickens Aren't the Only Ones
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#14 - Chickens Aren't the Only Ones

Season 5 - Episode 3 - Aired 6/24/1987

LeVar wants to find the answer to the old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Posing as field reporter for E.G.G.-TV , he uncovers other discoveries instead, such as loggerhead sea turtles emerging onto the sand to lay eggs. Georgia Engel narrates Chickens Aren't the Only Ones, a book told in rhyme showing all kinds of animals who lay eggs like chickens.

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The Paper Crane
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#15 - The Paper Crane

Season 5 - Episode 4 - Aired 6/25/1987

LeVar provides insight on Japanese culture. Keye Luke reads the story of a kind restaurant owner who is thanked by a customer with a magical crane made from a napkin, whose dancing spectacle soon brings in the guests to make the failing business prosperous again.

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The Runaway Duck
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#16 - The Runaway Duck

Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired 6/28/1987

In a small boat on the Chesapeake Bay, LeVar is on the lookout for ducks who are spending the winter. During the trip, he gets a chance to see a duck up close and show how a couple turns a block of wood into a duck. Orson Bean reads The Runaway Duck, a story of a toy duck named Egbert who gets tied to a car by accident and how he then travels all over the world when the car drives off.

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A Three Hat Day
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#17 - A Three Hat Day

Season 5 - Episode 6 - Aired 6/29/1987

A totally unreal hat store called "Hats... to Where?" sells hats that transport customers to all parts of the world. LeVar whisks himself to the horse racetrack at Turf Paradise, to a model train display in Three Bridges, New Jersey, and to the Nassau Coliseum, where he gets a goal tending lesson from Kelly Hurdey of the New York Islanders. Zelda Rubenstein reads A Three Hat Day, a story about a man who loves hats very much, and how he meets his soul mate when he goes shopping in a new hat store.

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Best Friends
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#18 - Best Friends

Season 5 - Episode 8 - Aired 7/1/1987

The best of friends are those whose friendships endure everything. And it extends to all walks of life, particularly to dogs. Liza Siegler reads the story of two girls who are best friends, but their relationship is strained when one girl goes on a vacation with relatives and the other girl feels lonely and neglected, until a new neighbor moves in and asks her to help him look after his dog.

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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
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#19 - Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Season 5 - Episode 9 - Aired 7/2/1987

LeVar travels to an old west town made to look like life in the 1880's to see how times have changed in the last 100 years. He explores how cowboys lived and traveled, and he also shows how stunt riders practice tricks on their horses for western movies. Hoyt Axton reads the featured book, a story told in comparisons about a rancher who decides to spend the day in a town 84 miles from home, and the strange happenings at his ranch back home while his wife stayed home to plant potatoes.

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My Little Island
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#20 - My Little Island

Season 5 - Episode 10 - Aired 7/3/1987

LeVar spends a day on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. With the featured book as his guide, LeVar drives around the coastline, visits an open market, and gets a glimpse of a mountain frog. Ron Foster narrates the featured book, My Little Island, about a young boy who visits his cousins on the island and how it is much different than his life in the United States.

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Bugs
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#21 - Bugs

Season 6 - Episode 2 - Aired 8/16/1987

With microorganisms under his belt, LeVar now goes on the lookout for insects.

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The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner
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#22 - The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner

Season 6 - Episode 3 - Aired 8/17/1987

LeVar tries to have lunch at a diner, but soon finds himself thrust into work. For some reason, he just doesn't understand luncheonette lingo.

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Brush
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#23 - Brush

Season 6 - Episode 4 - Aired 8/18/1988

Can inanimate things come to life, as the feature book suggests? LeVar finds out for himself in a factory where all the goods for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are stored.

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The Purple Coat
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#24 - The Purple Coat

Season 6 - Episode 5 - Aired 8/19/1988

In New York again, LeVar goes to get a tailor-made jacket. In between comes a visit to the Fashion Institute of Technology.

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Barn Dance!
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#25 - Barn Dance!

Season 6 - Episode 6 - Aired 8/27/1989

LeVar is in Tennessee where he is going to a barn dance. Along the way, he meets the band who will be playing their Bluegrass music and meets a man who makes his own fiddles. At the barn, LeVar also learns a few dance steps for the big night Roy Clark narrates Barn Dance!, a story about a hoedown that is unlike any other.

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