When a child receives a book, she gets far more than a colorful story. When you give a child a book, you are giving him a gift that can inspire a lifelong love of reading, which will undoubtedly increase the child's proficiency and competency in the classroom. Reading at an early age helps a child bond with the adults who read to her. In addition to building strong personal connections, being read to at an early age improves the opportunity for a child to make important connections between images, words and sounds, which will build her vocabulary during the crucial period of early brain development.
The impact reading to your children has is why Read2Me, the community-wide initiative to promote early literacy in pre-school aged children, is expanding its efforts. The volunteer organization is partnering with the Literacy Council of Highlands to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to all children, birth to five years old, in Macon County.
The Literacy Council of Highlands has already been working and has implemented the project in Highlands and expects to have 75 participants enrolled in the program by the end of the year. With the help of Read2Me volunteers, Gary Doubleday with The Literacy Council of Highlands, plans to have the project funded and ready to expand to the rest of the county by Christmas.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides one book per month free of charge for all children, birth to five, who register.
“This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in your community,” says Parton in the program's information letter. “When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”
After a parent or guardian has registered a child with Imagination Library through the Highlands Literacy Council or Read2Me, the child will receive once a month in the mail a package with a free, age-appropriate book selected from the Imagination Library’s set of 60 children’s classic picture books.
With 624,840 children registered for the program in the United States, there is evidence of the impact that the program has had on children across the country. Doubleday noted that after bringing the program to a town in Georgia, the reading levels and readiness of children went from 40 to 90 percent.
The Literacy Council has already secured funding for Highlands and Scaly Mountain area children, and have raised a bulk of the funds needed to fully expand to the rest of Macon County. On average, the program cost $30 per child per year, which amounts to 12 books being mailed to each child's home. The cost covers the books and mailing the materials to homes throughout the county. By partnering with Read2Me, Doubleday hopes to increase the number of volunteers available to register children and raise money for the program.
Read2Me is focused on a three-tiered mission of 1) Increasing public awareness in the community, 2) Getting books into the hands of all pre-school aged children, and 3) Parent training. While the Dolly Parton Imagination Library will aid in Read2Me's goal of providing books to children, the volunteer group plans to continue holding book distributions at community events such as StreetFest, Halloween in the Park, and Winter Wonderland to provide children with free books.
For more information about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, to volunteer, or to donate, contact the Literacy Council of Highlands at (828)526-0925.