Decision to end ‘Reading Rainbow’ traced to a ‘shift’ in priorities during the Bush administration.

“Reading Rainbow,” of the most beloved and long-running children’s education shows, is airings its last episode today. The show, hosted by actor LeVar Burton, started in 1983. John Grant, who is in charge of programming at Reading Rainbow’s home station, explains that part of the reason the show is ending is because no one — including PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) — wants to continue funding it. The other reason can be traced back to a “shift” in priorities during the Bush administration:

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”