Movies and TV are often held responsible for the demise of reading
among children. But a Disney partnership with schools aims to show
kids that books -- like motion pictures -- make for great adventures.
Belle, the star of “Beauty and the Beast,” and an avid reader in
the film, visited McKinley, Providencia and Edison elementary schools
this week to tell a story from a favorite book with her sidekick,
Pierre, a village peddler.
“You can travel to a distant land, conquer a villain, rescue a
princess and have countless adventures whenever you want,” Belle told
the children. “All you need is a good book, a comfy chair, and maybe
a good friend to share it with.”
The performers told and acted out “The Legend of the Viking
Castle,” complete with sound effects by volunteers from the student
audience, showing students that books can be cool.
“In second grade, I used to like reading,” said Estephany Ramirez,
8. “Now that I’m in third grade, I don’t read as much. Now that I saw
the show, [I feel] like I should read more often. When you read a
book ... you could imagine all the things that are happening.”
As part of Disney’s community outreach initiative, the studio
sends employee volunteers to schools to work one-on-one with students
to improve their reading skills.
“They have someone to talk with about what they’re reading, [and]
it helps them with comprehension,” McKinley second-grade teacher Dena
Dissmeyer said. “All the children who have tutors have really
improved [their] reading skills.”
Through its outreach efforts, the studio aims to encourage parents
to read with their children, Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman
said. As part of the initiative, Disney is donating one million books
to children from low-income families so they can have a new book of
their own, she said.