Press Release  


Celebrities, Schools, and Foundation Team Up to Inspire Love of Reading

On Thursday, January 12, director and producer F. Gary Gray and actor Omar Gooding read aloud to children at Frank D. Parent Elementary School in the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD). Following the read-aloud, each child received a brand-new book donated by the LA Clippers and Random House.

The event was the second stop on the Stephanie Starks Hope Foundation’s (SSHF) 2005-2006 Holiday Children’s Book Drive and Read Aloud tour, hosted in conjunction with the City of Inglewood and Project Read for HOPETM Ambassador Councilman Curren Price. The goal is to promote reading and literacy among children.

Frank D. Parent Elementary, known for its strong science program, is a small school of approximately 800 students in grades K-8. Its academics are enhanced by the recent overhaul of campus facilities; in January of 2003, the school cut the ribbon on $15 million worth of new construction and modernization. This year, Parent School’s test scores increased by 25 API (Academic Performance Index) points—meeting and exceeding the State’s growth target by 18 points. According to Principal Judith Washington, partnerships with groups such as SSHF are key ingredients to the school’s accomplishments. “Our success is a direct result of our focus on improving instructional strategies, which in turn help to nurture a lifelong love for learning among our students,” said Washington. “Everyone wants to see Frank D. Parent School become the high-achieving school it has the potential to be. Through partnerships with the community and cooperation of all stakeholders, I know we can become a model for schools nationwide.”

Parent School’s goals are in line with those of the Foundation. “Our goal is to promote literacy to children and to encourage students to read outside the classroom, as well as to encourage adults to read to children,” said Shelia Starks, founder of SSHF.

“[Lack of] literacy is a real problem in our country,” said guest F. Gary Gray, who came to take part in the Read Aloud at a moment’s notice. “Instead of complaining about problems, you have to step up and take matters into your own hands.” Gray established an immediate rapport with the children as he read aloud Dr. Seuss’ popular Oh the Place You’ll Go to second-graders from Mr. Thomas, Ms. Washington, and Ms. Boute’s classes. “You can be anything you want to be,” he told students, “and go anywhere you want to go.”

“Reading is definitely the key to a healthy future,” added Omar Gooding, who took part in the Read Aloud as a way to give back to the community. “Parents should find books that are interesting to their kids and encourage them to read as much as possible.”

For IUSD, the read-aloud session and book donations provide yet another avenue towards achieving the Board of Education’s goals to improve literacy district-wide and strengthen school-community partnerships. SSHF became an official adopter last year through the IUSD Adopt-a-School program, whereby businesses and foundations partner with the district to provide services and enrichment materials to schools.

“We are truly grateful to the Stephanie Starks HOPE Foundation for its continued generosity,” said IUSD Superintendent Pamela Short-Powell. In April, the Foundation donated 6,000 new books to Warren Lane School. Lane was also the first stop on the Read Aloud tour, featuring Ananda Lewis of 100.3 The Beat, The Insider, MTV, and BET. The next stop is Woodworth Elementary School, to take place on January 18 with NFL Player Curtis Conway and City Councilmember Ralph Franklin.

On Saturday, March 25, 2006, the Inglewood Unified School District will join LAUSD schools and the Compton Unified School District for the Project Give HOPETM Run/Walk at the Home Depot Center in an effort to raise funds for playground equipment and other school needs while encouraging others to support children, their schools and community.

More information is available about the Foundation online at and about the Inglewood Unified School District at

Page updated 11.27.06