‘Jeopardy!’ Alum LeVar Burton Continues His Pursuit for Knowledge With Spelling Bee Competition

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LeVar Burton has been an advocate for literacy and education for decades. The long-running Reading Rainbow introduced countless children to the wonders of the written word. Since his time on that show, Burton has steadily worked to promote children’s education. Many believed that this passion for knowledge would make him perfect to take the permanent Jeopardy! hosting job. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. Now, Burton has a new hosting gig that takes him back to his reading roots.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Scripps hired LeVar Burton to host their National Spelling Bee. This move benefits both Burton and the spelling competition. On one hand, Burton gives the Spelling Bee a celebrity face to draw in larger audiences. Additionally, it gives Burton a way to more directly pursue his passion for children’s education and literacy and introduces him to a new generation.

LeVar Burton told the AP that he has a very clear goal going into this new job. “I want to normalize the pursuit of knowledge in this culture,” he said. “Not just making stuff up and calling it a fact. Achievement through knowledge, scholarship, putting in the work to gain the reward.”

The former Reading Rainbow host said that he hopes to serve as a bridge between the audiences and the kids who are competing in the spelling bee. LeVar Burton plans to do that by telling the stories of the kids.

How LeVar Burton’s Celeb Status Helps Scripps

Scripps has partnered with ESPN to broadcast the National Spelling Bee for the last 27 years. Earlier this year executive producer J. Michael Durnil took the reigns of the production. He stepped away from the deal with ESPN. Now, the National Spelling Bee will air on Scripps-owned networks ION and Bounce. Additionally, the bee will be available to stream online.

This is a huge change for the National Spelling Bee and they’re hoping to make it a beneficial one. LeVar Burton is a beloved pop culture figure. Earlier this year, he had a massive group of people who wanted to see him host America’s favorite quiz show. Now that Burton is hosting the National Spelling Bee, those supporters might come over to watch him host while pursuing his passion for education.

As of now, the public doesn’t know what LeVar Burton will do on the broadcast. However, with his comments above and the other large changes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him interacting with the contestants during the bee. This is something that never happened on ESPN. But, it looks like Scripps is moving to a new format.

They have plenty of time to plan. The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place the week after Memorial Day. For the first time since 2019 more than 200 spellers will meet face-to-face for the battle of wits.