While LeVar Burton's first big break was playing the character of Kunta Kinte in 1977's Roots, it would be his later roles that embedded him in the hearts and minds of the viewing public. As longtime host of children's show Reading Rainbow, visor wearing Geordi La Forge on Star Trek, and more, Burton has been a regular on our television sets for over four decades. But more than an actor, it is for his ongoing quest to democratize reading and education that we celebrate him as one of the great Black Iconic Voices for Black History Month.

In July, 1983 PBS premiered Reading Rainbow, a half hour show to excite kids about reading and to help encourage them to read more. It was groundbreaking at the time for its choices in diverse multicultural reading materials, giving kids of all backgrounds an ability to see themselves reflected back on television. His famous catchphrase, "You don't have to take my word for it." ringing in the minds of all who grew up watching Reading Rainbow from 1983-06.

LeVar began as the host and Executive Producer until the show ended in 2006. In 2011, he launched a reboot of the series as RRKids after obtaining rights to the name and branding. Due to legal challenges in 2017, Burton rebranded his reboot as LeVar Burton Kids and created Skybrary, an ad-free virtual library containing 1,800 digital books and videos aimed at children ages two to nine. Skybrary is not only accessible as an app through smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles, but Burton has also made it available to low-income Title I schools for free.

“We are failing to teach our children how to read and write coherently, and it is my hope that I can be part of the solution by continuing to advocate for children to become more than simply people who know how to read. I want them to become readers for life. Because readers for life tend to be self-educators.”

During LeVar Burton's time with Reading Rainbow it received an unprecedented amount of awards and recognitions. Nominated for 73 Daytime Emmys, the show won 17, several for LeVar's work as host. It received 6 NAACP Image Awards, 3 ACT Awards, and was nominated for countless others. It was the third longest-running children's show in PBS history — outlasted only by Sesame Street and Mister Rogers.

While LeVar Burton has gone on to act, direct, and produce countless television and film projects over the years, it is his newest focus on voice acting and audiobooks that we are especially enthralled by. In 2017 Levar Burton partnered with Stitcher to create the podcast LeVar Burton Reads - where he releases a new audiobook each week. His voice is perfect for this purpose, engaging and delightful. Have a listen below to one of our favorites, Ray Bradbury's "The Great Wide World Over There".

LeVar Burton's vocal style is perfect for storytelling, for engaging and inspiring any age, but also for encouraging the rapt attention of children. We love how dynamic range of expressivity and how his smooth deep voice makes listening and learning a joy.

Voice styles such as his would be amazing in educational applications using digital voice. However, voices such as his aren't currently represented in the digital voices dominating the markets. But, imagine the possibilities, if the world of digital voice matched the world of human voice. If it was as dynamic and expressive? More representative? Guess what, now it can be — learn more about AI-Voice and what we are doing to democratize digital voice in 2021.


Windmill voices are defined as Low, Deep, Breathy, and Nasal. Learn more about the unique characteristics that make up our voices and voice types here: VOCALiD Voice Types.

This is the sixth in our Iconic Black Voices series and a special post for World Cancer Day. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.

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