Imagination Library doubles in size

LITTLE 'READER': Though Samuel Boughan can't yet read the books he's received through the Mecosta County chapter of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, he enjoys looking at the pictures. (Courtesy photo)

LITTLE ‘READER’: Though Samuel Boughan can’t yet read the books he’s received through the Mecosta County chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, he enjoys looking at the pictures. (Courtesy photo)

Organizers seek donors to support continued growth

MORLEY — An organization aiming to help the area’s youngest children get a hand with language development and school readiness has doubled in size in the past year, and now is looking for more donors to help keep the momentum going.

The Mecosta County Chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library — a national organization which sends a free book each month to any child from birth to age 5 — had 62 children enrolled in April of 2015. Today, the chapter has 154 active registered participants. A total of 32 children have “graduated” or aged out of the program since its local beginning in 2014.

Courtesy image

Courtesy image

“It’s a wonderful program for promoting early literacy,” said Penny Brenner, co-coordinator of the Mecosta County chapter. “It gets children excited about books, ready for school and provides great family interaction when parents read to their children.”

Multiple studies have been done on the benefits of reading to babies and young children, on the children’s language development, their school readiness and later reading skills. A quick Google search turns up more than 3 million results in less than a second.

“When you read to children before they learn to speak and as they’re learning to speak, they’re learning language. In those formative years, when they’re learning to talk, they need to hear lots of words — that’s why you talk to babies,” said Roger Cole, the other co-coordinator. “Kids learn words before they learn to read. This is a way of stimulating that growth.”

ENJOYING BOOKS: Chloe Brewster is one of the children who receives a monthly book through the Mecosta County chapter of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. (Courtesy photo)

ENJOYING BOOKS: Chloe Brewster is one of the children who receives a monthly book through the Mecosta County chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. (Courtesy photo)

At a cost of about $25 per year per child, the monthly bills to cover the cost of the books and mailing from the national organization have gone from about $130 a month to more than $300, Brenner noted.

“The families get the books for free,” she said. “It’s all paid for through donations.”

“We need a constant flow of money to keep the books coming,” Cole added.

In addition to maintaining the service for the children already signed up, Cole and Brenner hope to reach more of the under-5 population of Mecosta County. Currently, they’re reaching less than 25 percent of eligible children.

“Initially, I think the early estimates for how many children were eligible were about 400,” Cole said. “We need a constant flow of money to keep the books coming.”

SELECTED STORIES: The books sent to children through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library are carefully selected by a committee whose members have a background in education, child development and early literacy. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

SELECTED STORIES: The books sent to children through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are carefully selected by a committee whose members have a background in education, child development and early literacy. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

Brenner and Cole are seeking both new revenue sources, through donors and grants, and new enrollees for the program. At the current participation level, the program has enough money to last about two years, but it’s not enough to keep the effort viable.

“We need to raise a lot of money or start a waiting program, which we don’t want to do,” Brenner said.

Anyone interested in donating to the program or signing up a child should contact Brenner by email at pbrenner@morleystanwood.org or call her at (231) 856-4392.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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