While the benefits of reading to children and teaching them to read at an early age are undeniable, not all parents have the means to provide age appropriate books to their offspring regularly, but a local chapter of a national program may help those in need.
"It's a program I think will really benefit children and families in this area," said Sadie Updike, Rural Outreach Support specialist with Child Care Connection in Anchorage, and co-chair of Greater Kenai/Soldotna Area Imagination Library.
Started in 1996 by country music legend Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library began as a way to benefit the children in the area near the singer's home in east Tennessee. She covered the costs and mailed a new, age appropriate book each month, to every child under five in the county.
"The program caught on around the country as people saw the value in it," Updike said, and now it has spread to the central Kenai Peninsula.
"There is no cost to the families of the children who register for the program. The Imagination Library is supported by grants and the local community," Updike said, and listed Best Beginnings, the Rasmuson Foundation, ConocoPhillips, and The CIRI Foundation, as a few of the sponsors.
Donations are also welcome, since the total cost for each child per year is $30 or an average of $2.50 per month, according to Updike.
"A sign-up and sponsor-a-child event will be held Saturday, at the Green Strip during and after the Fourth of July parade in Kenai, and we'll have a booth at Progress Days in Soldotna. Donations can also be made at either of these events or through our Web site," she said.
The first book every child receives is "The Little Engine That Could" and the last book is "Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten." If a family has more than one preschool-aged child, each child may participate and receive his or her own books, and children registered at birth will have a library of 60 books when they graduate from the program.
"Funding is limited, so sign-ups will be limited to the first 40 children. More fundraising will have to be done to sign-up more than that," Updike said.
For more information on the local Imagination Library, or to support the program, call Sadie Updike at 260-3638 or visit their Web site at http://www.bestbeginningsalaska.org/index.php/Families/Greater-Kenai/Soldotna-Imagination-Library.html.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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