Title: Reading Rainbow S1.E02 “Miss Nelson Is Back”
Released: 1983

Fix: Childhood Nostalgia
Platform: Netflix

Netflix Summary:

New worlds of imagination unfold in this widely acclaimed series, which features guest celebrities reading selections from children’s literature.

FYA Summary:

READING RAINBOW, Y’ALL. If you were a kid in the ’80s, there’s a very strong chance that you now have that theme song stuck in your head. (You’re welcome.) As a child, I spent hours with LeVar Burton, who guided me through the pages of books and the universe of the imagination, and many, many years later, this show still holds such delight for me. The classic books! LeVar’s goofy antics! The life lessons! The fashion! The “celebrities” of the ’80s!

For this particular post, I watched my all-time favorite episode*, “Miss Nelson Is Back,” in which we’re treated to the book, with James Marshall’s hysterical illustrations, along with a super cool special effects make-up lesson, riddles, crafts (how to make a mask), kid reviews, and magic from Blackstone! What I’m saying is, you get a lot of bang for your buck with Reading Rainbow.

*When I told my husband this, he said, “You have an all-time favorite episode of Reading Rainbow?” Um, OBVIOUSLY.

Familiar Faces:

LeVar Burton as himself

Although I later became a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I will always think of LeVar Burton first and foremost as the guy who introduced me to a ton of my favorite books. He’s the ideal children’s show host–silly but never insipid, educated but never condescending. And his smile! Dude could light up New York City with that wattage.

Blackstone as himself

Harry Blackstone, Jr. (who passed away in 1997, sadly) was the special guest on this particular episode, and he performed some classic magic tricks that might seem laughable amid the David Blaines and Criss Angels of today. But I found his old school cheesiness style just as amazing as I did when I was six. I mean, you guys, he CUT LEVAR BURTON IN HALF! WHAT!

Kid reviewers as themselves

I had completely forgotten about the segment in which kids review books, which is crazy, because when I was young, I wanted that gig so badly. Watching them now, as an adult, I can barely handle how freaking adorable these children are, not to mention how articulate! Decades before YouTube, Reading Rainbow was a goldmine of cute kid videos.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Depends On Experience

If you’re surrounded by a group of RR veterans who want to take a walk down memory lane, pack ’em in. But if you’re thinking about watching this show with some newbs*, I would think twice. Reading Rainbow is meant to be savored, not mocked, and people who didn’t grow up with it might not appreciate it like they should.

*If your newbs are under the age of eight, give it a shot. Although don’t let it crush you when they say they’d rather watch Frozen for the billionth time.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: High

I suggest pairing this show with the adult version of a juice box.

Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Inspirational

Reading Rainbow truly captures that feeling of falling in love with books, and it’s impossible not to watch an episode without it rekindling that sense of wonder and magic.

p.s. Were you a RR fan as a kid? Hit me up with some of your favorite episodes/moments in the comments!


Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.