Disney Grant Shines on Junior BookPALS, Children’s Literacy Initiatives

May 26, 2010


Florida Children’s Literacy Initiatives Program Director Natalie Rogers (left) receives the
Helping Kids Shine award from Disney’s Cheryl Boza (Manager, Community Relations)

Florida’s Junior BookPALS program has received a generous gift in Disney’s Helping Kids Shine grant of $5,000, a show of support for children’s literacy as well as the dedication put forth by Natalie Rogers (SAG Foundation Florida Program Director – Children’s Literacy Initiatives) and her hardworking team of volunteer readers, mentors and students.

The annual grant, which provides funding to selected non-profit organizations whose work helps and engages children in community and society, was presented by Disney representative Cheryl Boza during a celebration of literacy, with volunteers, students and teachers gathered at the end-of-year PencilPALS party at Catalina Elementary School in Orlando.


4th grade students entertain with a rousing violin concert at
Catalina Elementary School’s end-of-year PencilPALS party

PencilPALS was developed by Rogers to supplement BookPALS, the first program to be implemented from the Foundation’s Children’s Literacy Initiatives, a far-reaching, multi-faceted effort to address the problem of substandard literacy rates among children while inspiring them with the love of reading and writing. PencilPALS pairs adult volunteer letter-writers with elementary students for ongoing correspondence during the school year while Junior BookPALS, developed by Arizona BookPALS Coordinator Ellen Dean, brings together students from disparate and different demographics, grades and schools.

Through Junior BookPALS, leadership training by professional actors and certified teachers gives high school drama students the opportunity to read aloud to and tutor under-served elementary students in critically low-performing public schools. Additionally, the Junior BookPALS program fosters healthy adult-to-student and student-to-student mentoring relationships, with high school students involved in meaningful leadership activities that benefit the broader community.

Established in 1993 by Barbara Bain (Mission Impossible), BookPALS currently engages over 2,000 volunteers (many of them professional actors) in reading aloud to over 100,000 preschool through 5th grade students weekly at public schools, hospitals, cultural institutions, and shelters across the nation as well as online through our interactive website, Storyline Online (www.storylineonline.net) – which has, by the nature of the Internet, extended our campaign for literacy to homes and classrooms around the world.

All of the SAG Foundation’s Children’s Literacy Initiatives have engaged unique collaborations and heartfelt teamwork from thousands of actors, artists and educators to help young minds elevate their powers of creativity and communication. BookPALS, Junior BookPALS, PencilPALS and Storyline Online empower children not only toward avoiding the educational and professional pitfalls common to teens and adults with poor reading and writing skills (nationwide high school drop-out, criminal involvement and poverty numbers all show statistical correlation to illiteracy) but also to encourage them to reach their potential as creative, productive and socially responsible thinkers.

Grants such as Disney’s Helping Kids Shine award go far in championing the fight to improve children’s literacy. While our services benefit from the work of talented and generous volunteers, funding remains a necessity in administering our non-profit programs. We welcome all who value the education and inspiration of young minds to learn more about the SAG Foundation’s Children’s Literacy Initiatives by reading more about them here, to spread the word about these programs, and to encourage donations to further this challenging, necessary and ultimately rewarding work!