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It’s the end of an era.

“Reading Rainbow,” the reading show hosted by actor LeVar Burton, ended its 26-year run on PBS on Friday.

It was the third-longest running children’s show on public television, following “Sesame Street” and the late, lamented “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which lives on in reruns.

Like lots of things in a tight economy, “Reading Rainbow” was a victim of insufficient funding.

John Grant, director of content at WNED in Buffalo, New York, the show’s home station, told NPR the show’s producers could not raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to keep the show on the air.

He also told the network that the decision to fold the show was linked to a change in the underlying philosophy of education programming, signaled by the Bush administration, which, Grant said, wanted programming that focused more on the how of reading (i.e. phonics, spelling), rather than the why. That shift, NPR reported, was confirmed by a PBS official.

“‘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.”

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