Maverick Speakers Series: Levar Burton
A Conversation With LeVar Burton
Host of the beloved PBS classic Reading Rainbow and originator of the iconic character Geordi La Forge on Star Trek, LeVar Burton kicks off the 2023-24 Maverick Speakers Series.
Actor, Director, and Television Host
LeVar Burton launched his acting career while still a student at the University of Southern California. At age 19, he found himself on the cover of Time magazine after landing the groundbreaking role of Kunta Kinte in the landmark television series Roots. Burton went on to achieve further global acclaim as chief engineer Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series, a role he reprised in Star Trek: Picard in 2023.
Even with his acting successes, Burton says he is most proud of his role as host and executive producer of the beloved PBS children’s series Reading Rainbow. Airing from 1983 to 2009, it was not only one of the longest-running children’s television shows in history, but also one of the most acclaimed, earning over 200 awards.
As a lifelong literacy advocate, Burton has dedicated decades to encouraging children to read. In 2017, long-standing literacy nonprofit Reading is Fundamental acquired Burton’s Skybrary reading app in order to provide access to millions of children both at home and at school. He has also partnered with Osmo’s Reading Adventure, an innovative technology that uses speech recognition and digital storytelling to teach children to read.
Burton continues to exercise his passion for storytelling in numerous projects today. He is the award-winning author of Aftermath, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and A Kids Book About Imagination. He also launched his first book club with Fable, a digital book club community. In his partnership with Masterclass, Burton shared the power of storytelling by offering insights into his own life and the importance of authenticity and dynamic expression. Now in its 11th season, his enormously popular LeVar Burton Reads podcast has over 175 episodes in its catalog, boasting 25 million downloads.
In 2023, Burton premiered his first documentary, The Right to Read, a film that positions the literacy crisis in America as a civil rights issue. He also launched LeVar Burton Entertainment with a mission to create content that fosters empathy, champions diversity, and builds community. With over 4 million social media followers, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a dedicated park in his hometown of Sacramento, Burton has demonstrated the unique ability to reach people of walks of life. He is the recipient of six NAACP Awards, a Peabody, a Grammy, and 15 Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Inaugural Children’s & Family Emmys.