Dire need

"Reading Rainbow" expands into a growing literary desert among youths in the United States. In the last 30 years, children and adolescents say they have spent markedly less of their recreational time with books, according to research by advocacy group Common Sense Media.

On his TV show, Burton became a trusted friend to children, parents and educators, recommending a variety of books and taking viewers on book-related field trips. He invited kids to recommend books in a segment, using the famous line, "but you don't have to take my word for it."

It was his cue to children to pick up a book themselves. Burton hopes more of them who should read more often will be able to soon.