Families with young children in Mentor, Mentor-on-the-Lake and Concord Township can now get picture books mailed to their house for free thanks to United Way of Lake County, its Emerging Leaders affinity group, The Literacy Cooperative, Mentor Public Library and Dolly Parton.
Children younger than five in those communities can now receive free high-quality, brand-new, age-appropriate books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Once the kids are signed up, they’ll have one book mailed to their home each month until they turn five.
And those free books can make a big difference for children as they prepare for kindergarten and life.
“According to one study, children who are read one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age five than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver. This disparity can affect brain, vocabulary and reading development,” said Cheryl Kuonen, the executive director of Mentor Public Library.
In Northeast Ohio, The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland works to introduce Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to as many communities as possible. It recently teamed with Mentor Public Library to write a grant that spreads the Imagination Library to Mentor, Mentor-on-the-Lake and Concord Township, and United Way of Lake County and its Emerging Leaders provided the funding.
“Evidence shows that participation is Dolly Parton’s Imagination library increases family reading and children’s interest in books leading to improved preparation for kindergarten,” said Robert Paponetti, President & CEO of The Literacy Cooperative.
And, in Lake County, 52 percent of children enter kindergarten without sufficient skills, knowledge and abilities to engage in kindergarten-level instruction. United Way of Lake County was eager to bring the Imagination Library to Mentor and hope to spread participation to all of Lake County.
“One of our goals is to increase kindergarten readiness among children in Lake County. Studies show that children who enter school unprepared are at risk of being left behind throughout school and life, which is why we are proud to support Dolly Parton’s Imagination library,” said United Way of Lake County Vice President and Community Impact Director Jean Sency.
Currently in Lake County, children in Kirtland, Kirtland Hills, Wickliffe, Mentor, Mentor-on-the-Lake, and Concord Township can sign up for the Imagination Library and start receiving books, thanks to different donors. Search here to see if the Imagination Library is available in your community.
Families can register to receive books at www.ohioimaginationlibrary.org or in person at one of Mentor Public Library’s branches. Note: it usually takes about two months for children to receive their first book after signing up.
Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in her hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee, in 1995. It was her way of encouraging reading and childhood literacy. In the past 25 years, the program has spread across the country and even to United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland with the help of local champions.