More than 10,000 volunteers have signed on with Fein's organization to tutor youngsters throughout the nation.
Local organizers say they are hoping to recruit, train and place 200 reading tutors in city schools by the end of this school year.
"What we have now is a crisis of illiteracy," said Karen Tamis of the JCRC. Roughly 60 percent of California's fourth-grade children are reading below the national standard for their grade level, she said.
"It turns out that the ability to read by the end of third grade is as powerful a litmus test as we have of a child's prospects for success in later life," Fein said in a statement. With Jews having "what might well be regarded as a surplus of literacy," preparing them as tutors represents "a near perfect match of need and resource."
Fein's call for action does not mention that in California, many of the state's school children are not native English speakers. Many will achieve English language literacy in later grades, according to the California State Department of Education.