LeVar Burton’s response to news of his Lifetime Achievement Award during the first ever Children's & Family Emmy Awards on Dec. 11 in Los Angeles was one of surprise. (Courtesy Twitter)

By AFRO Staff

LeVar Burton is a fixture in the memories of many African Americans, having played a pivotal role in the seminal slavery saga, “Roots” and hosting “Reading Rainbow” for more than two decades.

This year, the actor and television host will be recognized for his contributions to advancing literacy, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award during the first ever Children’s & Family Emmy Awards which will debut this year, according to CBS News.

“Whoa,” Burton posted on Twitter in response to the news, along with a surprise emoji.

The multi-talented actor, director, host and educator served as the executive producer and host of “Reading Rainbow” for 23 years from 1983 to 2006. When the show debuted in 1983 and thereafter, it changed the television and education landscape, fostering a love of reading in generations of children. It became the most watched PBS show in the classroom, and garnered more than 250 awards, including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award, Telly Awards, Parent’s and Teacher’s Choice Awards, and a total of 26 Emmy Awards, including ten for outstanding series.

When the program went off the air, Burton retooled it into an iPad app and educational aid. And, in his continued drive to advance storytelling and literacy, he currently hosts the podcast “LeVar Burton Reads,” in which he narrates interesting stories; and the YouTube series, “This is My Story,” in which he shares personal experiences with racism.

“You need to teach your children how to read, and you need for them to love to read,” said Burton in an interview with Think Progress. “If you want free, independent thinkers, people who can discern for themselves, people who want to actively participate in a democracy, you want them literate. If you want to control people, if you want to feed them a pack of lies and dominate them, keep them ignorant. For me, literacy means freedom. For the individual and for society.”

Burton’s lifetime achievement award would be the latest in many accolades. The “Star Trek: Next Generation” actor has garnered many Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award for Spoken Word Album, the Fred Rogers Award and many others. He even served on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences under President Bill Clinton.  He’s also slated to host the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Children’s & Family Emmy® Awards, created by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, is the first standalone expansion of the Emmy Award competition since 1979. It will take place on Dec. 11 in Los Angeles.

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