Martin Sheen read a selection from "Anne of Green Gables" to scores of excited elementary-school students -- and their teachers -- at a Barnes & Noble store in Manhattan Wednesday.

The event was organized to promote the latest television version of the classic, early 20th-century novel by the late L.M. Montgomery.

The story follows the adventures of an orphan who is placed with an elderly brother and sister on Canada's Prince Edward Island.

Sheen, who plays Matthew Cuthbert to newcomer Ella Ballentine's Anne Shirley, read aloud with gusto to the audience from the first book in the series after the crowd viewed a trailer and featurette for the movie, which will air in the United States on Thanksgiving Day.

"I used to read to our children when they were younger and I enjoyed that very much, but this is the first time I've ever read in public and I was so nervous, I can't tell you," the father of five, including actors Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, revealed during a question-and-answer session with the audience, following the reading.

"It took more than I could possibly have imagined. I was so frightened of you young children," he confessed, then emphasized how people should consider doing things that push them out of their comfort zones. "To accept doing the more difficult things that challenge you to step out of yourself, which is really a step towards ourselves, isn't it?"

Asked by UPI after the event if he hopes the film will energize young viewers to go out and read the novel that inspired it, Sheen replied: "This literary work probably has more importance now in our western culture of young people than it did when it was published [in 1908] because kids now are so into the electronic media.

"They're tweeting and twanking and twittering and emailing and all of the stuff on the Internet and, so, there is very little, true relationship," the 76-year-old actor explained. "There's really very little one-on-one and they get an image of themselves from others that is not always accurate about who they are. And very little of the stuff they're getting from the Internet and from each other is inspiring. ... So, here comes a work that challenges us to imagine being in that time or place or embodying that character -- or any one of those characters -- and being subject to the possibility of change."

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Sheen has starred in dozens of films, including "Badlands," "Apocalypse Now," "An American President" and "The Departed," as well as the TV shows "The West Wing" and "Grace and Frankie."