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Build a reading routine early with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a free program available to Upshur kids

BUCKHANNON – Imagine if kids could join a program which would provide them with a free age-appropriate book that were mailed to their homes each month from birth until they turned five years old.

Well, in Upshur County, and many places around the U.S. and world, kids and their families, regardless of family income, are being urged to sign up for a program called the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Parton launched the program in 1995, and the first books were only distributed to children living in Sevier County, Tennessee where she grew up. According to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library website, it was such a success, that in 2000, a nation replication effort was underway.

In 2003, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library had mailed out a million books. Currently, the program is available in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Republic of Ireland.

Locally, children have been enjoying the benefits of receiving and reading books through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Upshur County for approximately five years. Local contact for the program Lori Woods, who also serves as the pre-K Coordinator for Upshur County Schools, said she is striving to get all children up to age five registered for and receiving books through the Imagination Library.

“I think Dr. Tammy Samples, Upshur County BOE President, said it best during the last BOE meeting [recently] when she said we do a good job of catching and registering children who are age 3 and 4; however, we need to reach out to families in Upshur County who have children [younger than] or at age 3 to get them registered, too,” Woods said. “The Upshur County School system sponsors the book for students in this county.”

Woods said she wants families to know there is no cost to them to receive these books which help build libraries for the kids.

“If parents sign up online, but they do not have an email address, they are welcome to contact me, and I can help them get registered to receive their books,” Woods said.

Woods said reading to and talking with young children is extremely important.

“I am a champion of the cause – as many children as we can get registered to help build that library of books in the home, the better,” she said. “That is why Dolly Parton started the program. She wanted to get books in the hands of kids. She said, ‘You can never get enough books into the hands of enough children.’ I go right along with that: We want to get these books into the hands of as many kiddos as we can.”

Woods said students are extremely excited when the books arrive – and they come in the child’s name.

“It’s another bond that the family can create – checking the mail together – they are getting out and getting fresh air if they walk to the mailbox together,” Woods said. “It builds excitement for a book and then sitting down and sharing a book together builds family connections even more. It gets kids excited about print and name recognition. I cannot speak highly enough about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and all the ways it impacts families and kids.”

Woods said reading with children each day and making that a part of their daily routine is a good habit.

“Bedtime is an easy place to put it in,” Woods said. “If a child wants a book read over and over again, that is okay – it means they are learning the language and they like hearing the same story and that’s okay. Pointing to pictures in the book and pointing to words also helps children learn to read.”

An added helpful extra in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Books comes inside the front cover of each book which includes a synopsis of the book along with ideas to share with young readers such as ideas to count items on some pages, asking the child questions and using the beautiful illustrations to talk about things featured in the book. The front cover also includes ideas for questions to ask the child to make sure they understand the book and ideas for additional learning activities to share after completing the book.

In order to participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, parents can go online at https://wvde.us/west-virginias-imagination-library/ and click on ‘Enroll A Child’ or contact Woods by calling 304-472-5480 ext. 1043 or by emailing her at lrwoods@k12.wv.us.

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