I want to pay tribute to a local program that helps make reading a very special, daily event for many families with young children: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Since 2007, Addison County Readers has worked with the Imagination Library to send more than 150,000 books to Addison County’s newest little residents.
I recently learned that my family was probably in one of the first groups of families provided with free books by Addison County Readers. Since then more than 3,000 local preschoolers have participated in the program. My once-little reader (pictured above) is now old enough to drive and has developed a deep love of reading.
Although those early years seem very far away, I remember the chaos and hectic nature of raising little ones and the excitement we experienced when our trip to the mailbox uncovered a brand new book to add to our own growing library.
In our house Officer Buckle and Gloria was a bedtime favorite. It’s the story of a police officer, who visits schools to help children learn about safety. One day the police department purchases a police dog named Gloria who joins Officer Buckle at his safety speeches and they immediately become more popular.
I’m not going to tell you why (that would ruin the story!) but the story and illustrations brought many smiles and laughs into our household.
I also remember how the steady stream of new books immediately drew both of our daughters into the excitement of discovering new stories and characters to love. It’s exciting to think of all the families that have benefitted from this program and the many that will in the future. It left me wondering how all the other little readers have been doing, and what books were their favorites from the Imagination Library.
The National Commission on Reading states that:
“The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning of school.”
A love of reading can be nourished from a child’s very first days. Addison County Readers has partnered with the Porter Birthing Center since 2011 to provide Books at Birth, a program that gifts approximately 25 families a month a bag containing a welcome letter, a new book, and registration materials for the Imagination Library. Currently more than 1,000 children, from birth to 5 years old, are actively enrolled in the county and receive a free Imagination Library book in the mail each month.
Just recently, I decided to become a volunteer for ACR and am helping to recruit new children into the program by sharing registration materials with libraries, schools, and childcare facilities. Interested families and their friends are invited to visit our new website where they can find registration and program information readily available.
We feel so lucky that we moved back to Addison County at a time when we could participate in this program. I suspect that there are several other Imagination Library graduates who have fond memories of their favorite “Dolly book.” We’d love to hear from you and hear how your reader is doing now. If you’d like to share your Imagination Library story please let us know.
Heather Stafford is a volunteer for Addison County Readers.