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Program offers celebrity readings to kids in Coachella Valley

Palm Springs Women in Film and Television has begun offering a program, BookPALS, to allow volunteers to read to children virtually while in quarantine. Volunteers have included teachers, businessmen and women, lawyers and several actors.

The list of books have ranged from a wide array of authors, including favorites like Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle.

"When they have readers online and in this classroom, reading to them it makes them feel important-- that they matter," Coachella Valley BookPals program director and coordinator, Tere Romero Britton said.

The program is aimed for elementary school children, with the exception of one sixth grade class.

"The curriculum in our schools is so rigid that many times there’s not a lot of time for that oral reading and it’s a great opportunity for the kids to have community members come in that they may not otherwise ever come in contact with," Cathedral City Elementary School librarian, Teri Henderson said.

Schools were forced to shut down mid-March, and forced classes to an online format.

"It was a little sad because a lot of the readers are very, very involved and they look forward to it," Britton said.

Britton said the group initially wanted to hand out books to children. When they realized that wouldn't be possible, they formed another plan.

“We had to shelter in place so the next best thing to do was to do something virtually," Britton said.

The readings have become an optional and fun way of learning, aside from the classroom. Students and teachers can access the readings for free on the organization's YouTube page.

As thousands of children were forced to stay at home, similar programs have gained traction in recent weeks. Former First Lady Michelle Obama has began, "Mondays with Me"-- a program where she reads children's books on PBS.

"The perfect scenario would be having them in person but until we get to that point, I’m sure that doing virtually would be well-received," Henderson said.

The program has seen a positive response from both the children and the readers, who equally love it.

Britton said anyone who would like to participate, and who can be animated while reading, can email the organization:

"I’m hoping that people will realize, it doesn’t cost you anything to read a book to a child," Britton said.

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Shelby Nelson


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