Flashback: Television Encounters of the Book Kind

One more flashback for today.  This one is prompted by SF Said’s campaign   which is a campaign to prompt more media coverage of children’s books in various media outlets.  You can read more about the campaign here.

It got me thinking back to my own childhood.


Recently we’ve seen the resurgence of Reading Rainbow a public television program here in the States that made its daily fare about books and reading, and always featured a variety of stories, discussions of genres and types of books, and reviews by kids themselves.  It was a show that I still remember discovering books from.  I’m so happy there’s a renewed interest in it because it really was a powerful force for encouraging readers and opening the door to some of the children’s books out there for kids.

But there were some other programs too.

CBS Storybreak

This animated show aired from 1985-1987 and then returned from 1993-1998 and featured books turned into animated stories for the viewing audience..  The original series was hosted by Bob Keeshan (Otherwise known as Captain Kangaroo).

Some of the books CBS Storybreak featured included

Ratha’s Creature by Clare Bell (1983) (animation here)

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (1973) (animation here)

Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen (1982) (animation here)

ABC Weekend Special

This particular show air from 1977-1997, offering small movies and book inspired dramas for kids just after the cartoon ghetto on Saturday mornings.  While not all of it featured great children’s books, there were quite a few in the mix:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1965) (video here)

The Trouble with Miss Switch by Barbara Brooks Wallace (1971) (animation here)

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively (1975) (video here)


The fact is, these were things that as a kid made an impact.  They shared books with me I hadn’t thought about and opened the world of those books for kids who probably hadn’t thought much of reading.   It’s not like TV from stories has vanished–far from it!  But so much of today’s storytelling on TV is directed at the adult audiences.   There are plenty of kids stories that could be tapped.  And like the shows above suggest, it isn’t about  stories pulled out and serialized beyond their weight to hold together–it’s about smaller stories shared with the audience–about giving them something new every week or few weeks.

I remember these shows as magical.  The musical openings still fill me with that excitement I had as a kid to see what was in store for the program that day.  So what happened?  I’d love to see shows like this come back into being and share new generations of children’s books with potential readers and their parents.  Anyone know of anything like that out there?  If you do, inquiring minds want to know!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on February 2, 2016, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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