BookPALS on The Y Life

Continuing with our The Y Life Love week, I wanted to feature quite the special organization today… Y? Because it’s a volunteer organization of which I am an active member! Week in and week out I venture into an Elementary school in my community, to help kids learn to love reading. In turn, I am showing these children, the value of what a precious gift our imaginations are. Furthermore, by honing the skill of reading, as if it were the most important tool in our ‘tool box’ of life, we are opening our eyes to a world of opportunity, via each letter penned on the page.

“BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a signature children’s literacy program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation designed to provide an opportunity for performers, gifted in the art of storytelling, to help develop a love of reading in children and give back to their local communities” -BookPALS 

Performers from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who have mastered the art of telling stories, are able to show and teach the joy of reading to children who may not otherwise have been exposed to this kind of inspiration. The Y Life caught up with the Director of BookPALS & PencilPALS in Florida, Natalie Rogers, to learn what makes BookPALS such a valued organization at schools across our nation.

First and foremost Natalie, our Millennial readers are eager to know more about what makes BookPALS so special?

BookPALS: Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools is a program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, founded in 1991 by veteran actress Barbara Bain (of Mission Impossible). Barbara made the natural connection between actors, skilled in the art of reading aloud, and elementary school children learning how to read. Together, Ms. Bain and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation transformed that idea into a nationwide volunteer program comprised of performing artists who read aloud to elementary students at public schools.”

BookPALS is a children’s literacy program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation… How vital is it to have an organization, which provides performers the opportunity to share a joy they cherish with children in their communities?

“Reading is fundamentally linked to every facet of learning. Listening to literature being read aloud is one of the most valuable and pleasurable experiences beginning readers and writers can have. Story time offers a chance to model excellent reading and thinking strategies and to expose young learners to a rich variety of literature. When this exposure is accompanied by supportive and engaging discussions, children are able to extend their world view and develop important critical thinking skills. Performers make the very best reading role models. They use all their creative talents—voice, body and imagination, to bring books to life. Actors often add another dimension to their read alouds, whether it be character voices, sound effects, gestures and movement, costume pieces or props. This not only makes reading a more tangible experience for children, it also makes it incredibly fun and rewarding. Anytime you can make learning fun, you’ve got the children hook, line and sinker.”

What are the founding principles that helped to create BookPALS?

“Research shows that reading aloud to children is one of the greatest predictors of reading achievement and academic success. The program is founded on the premise that before children can learn to read, especially if they are non-native speakers of English or are not read to at home, they must experience the magic of books to develop a love of reading. Who better than actors to take words from the page and create worlds? Since performers have honed and polished the reading skills that children are just beginning to learn, they create opportunities for children to experience best practices for reading aloud.”

Y is reading aloud so important, to the future development of a child’s love for reading as an adult?

“There’s magic in reading. Books can take us anywhere in the world we may want to go. When children get to experience this magic, they’ll want to keep doing it again and again, all the way into adulthood and throughout their lives. Reading aloud is the single most important thing we can do to inspire lifelong readers. As Steven Layne, an expert in literacy education, says, “Reading aloud to children and young adults is best practice. It is sound practice. Never underestimate the power of a great book in the hands of a reader who knows how to use it.””

On average, how many children are impacted by BookPALS nationwide every month?

“Each month, BookPALS serve an average of 60,000 children nationally.”

My role may just play a small part in inspiring children’s imaginations every week, but it has been a mind blowing experience. You see, the journey of understanding the precious innocence of youth and how genuinely open these children are to absorbing information, created a selfless path to enlightenment for me. Who knew there were so many lessons to be learned from children’s literature, right?

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I first joined BookPALS, but every smile and every hug from these little sponges of knowledge, has confirmed for me, exactly Y BookPALS is such a special organization. Reading together we have planted seeds of love within the spirit, reached out to help friends who may not have been strong, transformed into imaginary farm animals and fed our brains with fruits picked from the tree of knowledge.

Just last week, during my BookPALS reading session, we spoke about our goals together. I let the kids share with me what they wanted to be when they grow up, in conjunction to servicing careers like Medicine, Armed Services and Teaching… half of the class mentioned wanting to become readers. This conversation between myself and a class of amazing 7/8 year olds, proved how simple moments, like sharing a passion of reading through books, can make such a difference in molding the future lives of these children!

Where and in how many states across the country do BookPALS read to children?

BookPALS primarily read to children in underserved public schools, but also homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and social service agencies. This reading initiative has chapters in Arizona, Florida, Los Angeles, New England, New York City and San Francisco.”

How can folks become involved in BookPALS or help support the organization?

“Anyone wishing to support this initiative may donate supplies, books, in-kind services, or monetary support via the website.”

Performers can learn more and sign up, by Clicking HERE

“The BookPALS mission is to stimulate children’s interest in reading and encourage them to read on their own; to awaken young imaginations; to enrich vocabularies and open the doors to a broader, richer landscape; to help children and families visualize and see themselves in other realities; and to inspire and motivate children to communicate and to listen.”

Y should education be of utmost concern, not only to Millennials, but future generations?

“Reading is the key to education; education is the door to the world!”