More than 19,000 young children – 35.2% of the estimated 53,996 children in Alaska under age 5 – are now enrolled in Imagination Library. The children’s literacy program – founded by Dolly Parton – has been growing by leaps and bounds in Alaska since 2009, when Best Beginnings took on the mission to expand it throughout Alaska. There are now 29 local Imagination Libraries serving 93 communities.
Prior to Best Beginnings’ involvement, there were just five affiliates – in Nome, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Hoonah, Wainwright, and Juneau – with 3,673 children enrolled. More local Imagination Libraries are in the works, with organizing efforts underway in Valdez and expansion plans to include Cantwell.
“The evidence is overwhelming that when young children are exposed to books early and often, they quickly learn to love reading. Those positive early experiences help prepare them to succeed in school and in life,” said Abbe Hensley, Executive Director at Best Beginnings. “We’re thrilled to now be reaching more than one-third of Alaska’s young children, but we won’t be satisfied until Imagination Library is available to every child under 5 in Alaska. New communities are always invited to come on board.”
Imagination Library mails a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child from birth to age 5 who signs up in participating communities, regardless of family income. There is no charge to the families. Best Beginnings and local communities raise funds to pay for the books, mailing costs, and family engagement activities. The Dollywood Foundation manages the book delivery system.
Best Beginnings’ approach is that Imagination Library is more than a book delivery program. It’s a way to get whole families and communities involved in early literacy – and help to ensure children begin school ready to succeed. Thanks to the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, Governor Sean Parnell, and the Alaska Legislature for funds that are helping Best Beginnings continue to support Imagination Library all over the state.