|Wed, Oct 22, 2014 07:50 PM
|Issue of October 15, 2014
July 23, 2014 | 10:18 AM
More than 700 children in Harrison County will not receive a free book next month, unless their parents register for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.
The program launched in 1996 with Parton's vision to foster a love of reading among her home county's preschool children by providing the gift of a specially selected book each month regardless of the family's income.
By 2000, Parton announced she would make the program available for replication to any community willing to partner with her to support it locally. In 2008, the Harrison County Community Foundation did just that.
"It gets the love of books to families and prepares them," said Sarah Travis, administrative assistant at the Foundation who manages the affiliation with Imagination Library. "The more you read to your child, the more it prepares them for preschool, kindergarten."
As of last month, 1,480 children younger than 5 participated, but there are approximately 720 still unregistered.
"I think there's a lot of young moms that don't know about it," Travis said, "and that's why I rack my brain to try to figure how to get them to know."
Parents can sign up online at www.hccfindiana.org or at the Foundation office, located at 1523 Foundation Way in Corydon. The program only requires that the family live in Harrison County; it is for newborns to 5-year-olds.
Sabrina Schreck signed up her daughter, Olivia (Livy), now 6, right after she was born through a link on the Harrison County Public Library website.
Schreck teaches junior and senior English at Corydon Central and said the benefits of early learning are essential.
"It is very simple to do," she said. "Every kid can learn something about reading no matter what age. From the sound of the inflection of their parents' voices to just the concept of flipping pages and looking at the pictures," Schreck said.
Although Livy is too old now to participate in the program, Schreck's other children, Penelope, 4, and Brigham, 2, still receive monthly books.
"There's some skill to be acquired for reading at every age. It's an exciting process for the kids." Schreck said. "For them, the reading skills that they've developed are early reading skills where they can look at pictures and make inferences about what the characters are feeling and what the characters are thinking."
Now Livy reads on a third-grade level and sometimes takes over the bedtime story reading for Schreck.
Schreck said she loves the quality and diversity of the books.
"Sometimes the same books will come. I think they try to give each kid a classic," she said. "But, there is a lot of variety. Even with Brigham, we've gotten books that we've never gotten before."
Since the initial program launch in the United States, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library went from a few dozen books to about 40 million mailed to children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Now more than 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 700,000 children each month. For children enrolled in the program, statistics and independent reports show Dolly Parton's Imagination Library improves early childhood literacy and scores during early literacy testing.
Steve Gilliland, the Foundation's CEO, said neighboring communities have contacted them to find out how they can get Imagination Library started.
Since its inception here, Imagination Library has provided 112,694 books to Harrison County children.
"It folds into our general early education programs (and) activities that we support," Gilliland said. "It's all about trying to help parents establish that bond with their child."