LeVar Burton tells kids to read banned books on ‘The Daily Show’

LeVar Burton is taking a stand against book banning. The former host of Reading Rainbow appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Tuesday to encourage children to read books being banned by their schools.

“I am so excited to read with you today,” he began the segment. “Our first selection is called Rosa and it’s the story of Rosa Parks.”

But before he can explain the premise of the book by Nikki Giovanni, the feed is cut short by a disclaimer that reads, “Please Stand By. Content Violation.”

“As it turns out, that book is banned because reading about segregation is divisive,” Burton said as he returned onscreen. “But since almost any book with Black people these days is considered divisive, here’s one that doesn’t have any people in it at all.”

As Burton tells the story of the second book — And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson — about two male penguins who adopt a baby penguin, the feed cuts yet again.

“Well, I’m told that book is also banned because of sexual perversion, which is weird because there’s no sex in the book at all,” Burton said.

The Star Trek actor makes a final suggestion that people “can’t possibly have a problem with” — Hop on Pop by Dr Suess. Wrong again. The children’s book was one of several publications requested to be removed from the Toronto Public Library in 2014 for encouraging violence against fathers.

“What? Disrespectful to parents?” Burton said. “You gotta be kidding me!”

The segment takes a more serious turn as Burton issues a public service announcement to children and students. “Read the books they don’t want you to, that’s where the good stuff is,” he said as a police siren went off

LeVar Burton’s final message before running away: “Read banned books!”

The effort to ban books across US school districts has gained renewed interest from conservative lawmakers in recent months. The push came to a head in November, when Texas governor Greg Abbott requested a probe into supposedly pornographic books in school libraries. A letter sent by the governor asked the state’s bureau of education to “investigate any criminal activity in public schools involving the availability of pornographic materials that serves no educational purpose.”

Last month, a Tennessee school district voted to ban Maus by Art Spiegelman — a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust — due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman, who is drawn as a mouse.

In 2020, the American Library Association reported more than 273 attempts to ban or challenge the use of books, particularly ones dealing with racism and LGBTQIA+ themes.