What began in 1993 with actress Barbara Bain (Mission Impossible) reading to groups of children in a park in Los Angeles has grown into a national volunteer literacy program consisting of thousands of actors reading to at-risk children in schools, hospitals, and social service agencies every month as SAG Foundation BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools).
The Los Angeles BookPALS branch now stretches across the Southland from Ventura to Irvine. Volunteer BookPALS read to assigned classes weekly in grades pre-K through 5th grade. Most Los Angeles BookPALS read aloud to two classes each week with a few superstars reading up to to nine classes every week!
“There is no better training for animation,” says South Bay BookPAL and actor Mark Neely. “I thought I was doing a really good job, and one day a little fourth-grade girl looks at me with a straight face and says, ‘Can you read with a little more enthusiasm? I think it will improve the book.’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ Turns out she was exactly right, and I realized I have to give it my all every time I read.”
Los Angeles BookPALS also read to children in hospitals and social service agencies, at libraries and book fairs.