BookPALS offers the Best Hour of the Week

November 17, 2010

Los Angeles BookPALS recently started writing to at-risk fourth graders as part of PencilPALS, a program created in the Florida branch of BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) by Natalie Rogers, Florida’s BookPALS director.
PencilPALS, a brand-new program for Los Angeles actors, kicked off at two area schools. On October 15 a literacy day event called “Reading Is Magical!” brought eight BookPALS to read to all of the classes at Lang Ranch Elementary in Thousand Oaks—and two special BookPALS, T. G. Cody and Bill Chott, also performed magic tricks for every class! And the PencilPALS program was introduced to 29 fourth graders and their teacher, Ms. Paula Golem.


BookPAL Colin Egglesfield reads to Lang RanchElementary children

In PencilPALS each student is paired with one actor, and letters are written and read in class, discussing a book chosen by each pair and writing about hobbies and interests—encouraging both writing and reading skills. At the end of the school year, the school will hold another literacy day event, and the PencilPALS students will finally meet their adult correspondents in person at a pizza party.

On October 27 Budlong Elementary students in south central LA were treated to a visit by children’s book author Antonio Sacre. Mr. Sacre is a master storyteller and motivated Budlong students to write more and read more. He discussed his picture books The Barking Mouse and La Noche Buena. Ms. Celeste Robertson’s 28 fourth graders were then introduced to the PencilPALS program.


Author Antonio Sacre tells the story of The Barking Mouse

One special PencilPAL made his first American friend through PencilPALS. Nine-year-old Jaisen arrived in Ms. Golem’s class a week after the kickoff—from China. He didn’t speak a word of English, but Ms. Golem hoped he could be included in the PencilPALS program. Serendipitously, BookPALS Vivien Young speaks Mandarin and was thrilled to write to Jaisen. He and his classmates may not understand each other yet, but he has his new friend Vivien!

Started in 1993, BookPALS is a national program of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Professional actors read books, usually weekly, to classes in at-risk public schools, in hospitals, in museums, and at community events. About 2000 volunteers read aloud to more than 100,000 preschool to fifth-grade students throughout the country.

Los Angeles BookPALS coordinator Robin Roy is always looking for more recruits. “We now have enough PencilPALS for this year,” she says, “but we always need more readers. Actors have the chance to perform weekly for the best audience ever! And actors are always telling me that their reads are the best hour of the week. Truly. Giving back in this way really gives the actors more than they could have imagined.”

For more information, e-mail or call 323-684-8606 to find out about the next BookPALS orientation.