The Untold Story of "Reading Rainbow"

June 14, 2024
Reading Rainbow

Buffalo, NY – Canisius University Professor Barbara  Irwin, PhD, is the co-author of the newly-released book Creating Reading Rainbow: The Untold Story of a Beloved Children’s Series.  “Reading Rainbow” remains one of the most successful PBS children’s series in television history.  It helped generations of children cultivate a love for books and earned numerous national and international awards for doing so, including 26 Emmys and a Peabody Award.  

Creating Reading Rainbow chronicles the Buffalo origins of the groundbreaking television series, and how a local public television station (WNED-TV) spearheaded an educational movement that sparked a passion for reading in millions of children.  The book explores the many intriguing and homespun stories that, when woven together, reveal how “Reading Rainbow” came to be; what led to the series being named “Reading Rainbow;” and its connection to another popular PBS children’s series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”  

Creating Reading Rainbow has received early praise from Al Roker (NBC Today Show), Luke Russert, and the presidents of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Several local media outlets are also reporting on its release including: 

The Buffalo News 

Most Buffalo (WGRZ-TV, Channel 2) 

Buffalo Spree 

Buffalo Rising 


An emerita professor of communication studies at Canisius University, Irwin was a project assistant for “Reading Rainbow” at WNED-TV in the early years of the series.  At Canisius, she specialized in media studies, teaching courses in media and children, public broadcasting and media literacy.  Irwin is an authority on daytime television and media history, and co-author of the New York Times best-seller The Young and the Restless Most Memorable Moments and The Young and the Restless Special Silver Anniversary Collector’s Edition. She is frequently sought after by local and national media, having appeared on National Public Radio, E! Entertainment, and in USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, among others. 

Irwin co-authored Creating Reading Rainbow with Tony Buttino Sr. and Pam Johnson, PhD.  Buttino is best known for his leadership in the creation of the Emmy award-winning public television series.  Johnson was vice president of education and engagement at WNED-TV where she spearheaded learning services and advanced innovative initiatives including “Reading Rainbow’s” national outreach and web priorities.

Canisius was founded in 1870 in Buffalo, NY, and is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the Northeast, Canisius offers undergraduate, graduate and pre-professional programs distinguished by close student-faculty collaboration, mentoring and an emphasis on ethical, purpose-driven leadership.