June 22, 2012 10:00 AM

Courtesy Reading Rainbow

After Reading Rainbow ended its 26-year run in 2009, the show’s host and producer LeVar Burton sought a way to bring the show to the digital generation.

We thought, ‘What can we do to reinvent the television show for today’s wired generation, the generation of digital mavens?'” he tells PEOPLE. “And the immediate answer was to do some sort of digital form. “

The resulting Reading Rainbow iPad app, now available for download through the iTunes store and geared toward ages 3 to 9, brings beloved children’s books to life. The adventure app lets kids navigate themed “islands” each containing a related set of books – Animal Kingdom, My Family or My Friends, for example – where little readers discover accompanying videos, puzzles and narration to enhance the storytelling. At launch, the app features 150 books (look for RR classics like Tortoise and the Hare, The Music In Derek’s Heart, The Cloud Book, and The Popcorn Book) and 16 video “field trips” reminiscent of the show.

“We know that kids want bells and whistles, so we give them bells and whistles but we give them in a way that makes sense to us and supports the storytelling experience,” Burton says. “We’re really proud of the way we’ve been able to translate that television format.”

“The book is the heart, the center, the soul of what we’re doing,” he continues. “We sort of expand that universe and explore it in other ways — but the sense of exploration and discovery of the real world through literature is absolutely consistent [with the show].”

— Kiran Hefa

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