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LeVar Burton as Geordi LaForge {image via Paramount}

LeVar Burton, Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and beloved, respected host of the PBS show Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion for his work in literary advocacy and his commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.

“If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge, the vision-impaired engineer of the USS Enterprise. Fans of ’70’s mini-series know him as Kunta Kinte, Alex Haley’s ancestor kidnapped into slavery from Roots. If you’re a parent or a teacher, the first thing you think of when you hear Burton’s name is not Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Reading Rainbow.”

Reading Rainbow ran for twenty-one seasons on PBS, from 1983 to 2009. There were 155 episodes. The show itself won over 200 broadcast awards, including twenty-six Emmies and the 1992 Peabody Award. LeVar Burton was granted “the 2019 Inamori Ethics Prize to Burton for his outstanding global ethical leadership as an advocate for such important and worthy causes.“

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation celebrates Literature and fosters connections between readers and writers to enrich and inspire both individuals and communities. PEN stands for Poets, Editors, and Novelists. Faulkner is to honor Nobel and Pulitzer winning American author William Faulkner.

PEN/Faulkner’s Executive Director, Gwydion Suilebhan, said, ““For decades, LeVar Burton has inspired readers all over the world. He has brought stories to life in a magical and meaningful way for generations of book-lovers, and his work has made a lasting, positive impact in literature.”

Like many actors, LeVar Burton has moved on to directing: NCIS: New Orleans, ST: Next Generation, ST: Deep Space 9, ST: Voyager, ST: Enterprise, Scorpion, Charmed, Perception, and The Tiger Woods Story.

Inaugural “PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion LeVar Burton will be honored, along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner and finalists, in a virtual celebration to be held on May 10, 2021Click here for more information.”

“I come from a family for whom service to others is the highest possible calling,” LeVar Burton said. “Whatever efforts I have made toward advancing the cause of literacy, give honor to my mother, Erma Gene Christian, my first teacher and from whom I have inherited my love for books and reading. As we move forward out of a time when alternative facts and mendacious propaganda shaped public opinion, the work you do through the PEN/Faulkner Award, and your committed investment in DC schools, has never been more important. I couldn’t be more honored to be the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion.”

As lifelong Science Fiction fans, it may be difficult for our SciFi.radio fans to understand non-readers. But such people do exist, and LeVar Burton has dedicated decades of his life to converting them into readers. In addition to his work on Reading Rainbow in the Eighties and Nineties, Burton currently “hosts his own podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, sharing the best short fiction and handpicked by” a literary champion. His YouTube series, This is My Story, highlights racism in the USA. He alleviated the misery of the pandemic lockdown by doing short story readings through TwitterLive livestreaming. We salute LeVar Burton for being named the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s first official Literary Champion.

Even though Reading Rainbow has been off the air for over a decade, librarians, parents, and booksellers know a children’s book with the Reading Rainbow medallion on the cover is a book that will appeal to young readers.

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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