|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2014 - Polk County Publishing Company
Free books offered to local youngsters
BY BRIAN BESCH
LIVINGSTON -- In an effort to give preschool-aged children a head start in education, the Livingston Rotary Club is sponsoring a program that will place books in the smallest of hands. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is a community program that positively impacts preschool children. Parton launched the program in 1996 for children near her home in Sevier County, Tenn. Reading difficulties can continue to negatively impact people throughout their lives and the Imagination Library is a way to inspire families to read to their preschoolers. There are many reasons why parents do not read to their children and these reasons require any number of strategies to combat them. "However, through the program, one of these reasons could be eliminated: no child should be without books," Rotary Club Member Ray Gearing said. Imagination Library provides a new book each month from the day the child is born until his or her fifth birthday. Preschoolers currently living in the community may enter the program at any time and begin receiving an age-appropriate book every month. Families with preschool children who move into the community are eligible to register and become part of the program. If a family has more than one preschool-aged child, each child may participate and receive his or her own library. The program was founded on three essential beliefs: the books are a gift to children, not a social service or charity; the books are for all children in a community, so no child is left out; and the books are mailed in the child's name to his or her home to generate excitement and promote ownership. The Dollywood Foundation provides a system that offers premium books at the lowest possible cost. Local financial sponsors, such as the Livingston Rotary Club, underwrite the purchase of the books and the mailing expense. The Livingston Rotary Club spends approximately $25 per child enrolled per year, for age-appropriate books. The Rotary's goal of enrolling every child in Polk County five years of age and younger can be accomplished at $45,000. "The program gives children the opportunity to receive their own book in the mail and look forward to it each month," Goodrich Superintendent and Rotary Club member Guylene Robertson said. "It is a wonderful time for the parents and the child to read the book together aloud. Experience with the written word builds fluency and comprehension. Generally, good readers have an advantage as students." A national panel of early childhood specialists from education, child development, academia, and early childhood literacy choose the books. The children's classic "The Little Engine That Could" is the first book each child receives and "Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come" by Nancy Carlson is the final book in the collection. Currently, 1,400 communities in 48 states, the United Kingdom, and Canada have replicated the program. These communities represent over 700,000 eligible children. To enroll a child or become a sponsor in the program, contact the Livingston Rotary Club at (936) 327-2752.