LeVar Burton strives to make education accessible for all children

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Photo courtesy of Sam Howzit

Actor LeVar Burton’s goal is to make literacy accessible to every child everywhere through the use of technology and storytelling.

Burton was the keynote speaker at UVU’s first National Summit on Dual-Mission Institutions, which brought together educators, policy makers and government officials to brainstorm ideas on how to meet the unique challenges that higher education faces.

He said that he wants to find new, innovative ways to help solve literacy problems by reaching children through technology.

“I believe that literacy has the power to change lives,” Burton said.

He is well-known for his role as host of the wildly popular children’s television show Reading Rainbow and as Kunta Kinte from the 1970s miniseries Roots.

Burton said that stories have the ability to impact and change the world; he used an example from Roots saying that the way slavery was viewed before the show changed after its airing because of the ability that visual and audio storytelling influences people’s perceptions.

He is continuing his life-long commitment to literacy and social justice through LeVar Burton Kids’ Skybrary, an interactive library of digital books and video explorations designed to engage young readers and foster a love of learning.

Burton has won several awards for his work including multiple Emmys and a Peabody.

Students and university community members gave Burton three standing ovations for his passionate speech. He spoke highly of his mother whom he said instilled in him a passion for reading and learning.

The university invited Burton to speak because of his mission to make education accessible for all children by reaching them on their level, which is what the university aims to do by offering trade certificates alongside four year degrees.

“The dual-mission model is the intentional merging of community-technical colleges and four-year universities under one roof, or where community colleges offer four-year degrees,” said university spokesperson Scott Trotter.

According to Trotter, the summit is meant “to further the conversation on integrated models of higher education.”

Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah State Board of Regents partnered with UVU to bring the summit to life.