Roll out of bed and stumble to your mailbox. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is now available in Larimer County.
The country music singer’s International Children’s Literacy Program provides children ages 5 and younger with a free book each month to help spark an early love of reading. Parents in Larimer County can enroll their children in the program through United Way of Larimer County.
“People are very excited about the program,” said Alison Hines, senior vice president of resource development for Larimer County. “This is a really great opportunity to get books into the hands of families who might not have access to them.”
Any child 6 years old or older is eligible to participate in the program. In Larimer County alone, approximately 17,000 children are eligible.
Since launching the program last week, more than 2,000 people have signed up for their children, Hines said. They hope to have 4,200 families enroll in the program’s first year.
According to the program’s website, since the program’s inception in 1995, Imagination Library has sent more than 180 million books to children in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. In 2016, the program began delivering an average of 1 million books per month and has not slowed since.
In a letter posted on the Imagine Library website, Parton said she started the project to help support the children of East Tennessee where she grew up. Her father’s illiteracy inspired her to dream that “all children should grow up in a home full of books,” regardless of their family’s income.
The Imagination Library is primarily funded by the Dollywood Foundation, supplemented by the Imagination Library in Colorado, which receives funding from the state. The Dollywood Foundation selects books and sends them directly to children.
“The themes vary widely and the books are always very age-appropriate,” said Shelley Schweighauser, a Wellington resident whose daughter signed up a few years ago when they lived outside of Nashville. participated in this project. “It was great for her to receive her monthly mailings.”
Extensive research from the program shows that children who participate in the program are better prepared in reading, speaking, thinking and social skills when they enter kindergarten. The program has also been shown to boost children’s interest in reading after they drop out of the program. Parents who enroll their children in the Imagination Library also report reading to their children more often.
“Books are an incredible gift,” Schweighauser told The Colorado in an email. “We are very grateful to be able to benefit from this program.”
Anyone interested in enrolling their child in the program can do so online at uwaylc.org/imaginationlibrary, and Hines said it may take six to eight weeks for children to receive their first book.
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Imagine a library with books in English and Spanish. Families can request which language they prefer when registering online.
United Way of Larimer County is also working directly with the Poudre River Public Library District to provide more Spanish-language books to families across the county.
“We want to make sure we have options that are right for families, and what’s best for them,” Hines said. “We know that 65 to 75 percent of families are reading more because of the program, so we want to make sure we have options that are best for them.” Provide materials and books in the caregiver’s native language.”