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LeVar Burton Named NASBE’s 2023 Friend of Education

Alexandria, VA—Emmy award–winning actor, director, author, and television host LeVar Burton is being honored as the 2023 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). This national award is given annually to an individual or organization whose contributions to preK-12 education are significant and enduring.

As the former host of the beloved PBS show Reading Rainbow over its 26-year run, LeVar Burton nurtured children’s lifelong passion for reading. Combining storytelling with real-world explorations, the popular program was launched in 1983 to help stem young children’s “summer slide,” in which some of the literacy skills they had gained during the school year erode over the summer months. The program earned 200 awards, including multiple Emmys and a Peabody.

Before he became the quintessential voice of children’s books and reading, he was already beloved for his leading role as Kunta Kinte in the pathbreaking television series Roots and as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and feature films.

Burton has continued to be a staunch advocate for reading and equitable opportunities for learning as executive producer of the award-winning documentary “Right to Read,” released in 2023. The documentary tells the stories of an activist, teacher, and two families who fought for children’s access to effective literacy instruction. Burton also wrote two children’s books and is the host of LeVar Burton Reads, a podcast in which each segment features a piece of short fiction.

“As a lifelong literacy advocate, I am honored to receive this recognition from the National Association of State Boards of Education.  I firmly believe that it is our fundamental right to be literate in at least one language. If you cannot read, you cannot access your full potential.  I have made it my mission to ensure literacy and education are at the forefront of conversation. We must engage in a national discourse about how we teach our children. It is our shared responsibility.  I am proud to work alongside NASBE as they strengthen public education so that students of all backgrounds are prepared to succeed in life,” noted Burton on receiving the award.

“LeVar Burton’s commitment to literacy, storytelling, and the love of reading has touched generations,” said Paolo DeMaria, NASBE’s president and CEO. “We are proud to recognize his profound impact on children and families and celebrate his enduring commitment to education.”

NASBE’s full slate of awards will be presented at its Annual Conference next week, October 25–28, 2023, in San Diego, California.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.


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