Imagination Library looks to expand in area

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The popular children's book program Imagination Library will be expanding.

Best Beginnings, part of the Alaska Department of Early Childhood Investment, is seeking applications for communities to either start a Dolly Parton Imagination Library or seeking funds to maintain an existing program.

Imagination Library mails a new, age-appropriate book every month to every child from infancy until they are 5 years old who signs up for the program in a participating community. The Dollywood Foundation manages the delivery system.

Best Beginnings says more than 10,000 Alaska children already participate through 18 Imagination Libraries that serve 48 communities, including Hoonah and Juneau.

Barbara Brown, with Best Beginnings, said they've already received some applications from areas that don't have Imagination Libraries, like Cordova and Fort Yukon.

Brown said she won't know how many more children will be served with this round of grants until all the proposals are in.

"It costs $25-$30 a year for each child to get 12 books," she said.

Brown said there is more to the program than just the book delivery, there are also costs associated with story time programs and role model programs.

Brown said there are currently 10,000 books a month being distributed. Through a separate grant, that number will increase to 14,000 a month this year.

There hasn't come a time yet where there have been more requests for sustained funding or new openings, so there isn't a precedence for which type of project would get funded if there are more requests than dollars.

"So far we've never crossed that bridge," Brown said. "What the committee looks at is, does it look like the community is organized to sustain their Imagination Library? Are they going to be able to do the leg work? At the same time, are there people who are prepared to get local funds to be able to support it?"

Brown said some of the community's responses to the program have been astonishing.

"The little community of Nanwalek raised enough funds to support their kids for 10 years," she said. "The (grant) money goes further on what communities are able to raise."

Another financial consideration is the program is funded 100 percent if a community's schools aren't making Annual Yearly Progress under standards laid out in the federal No Child Left Behind program or if the economic infrastructure can't support it.

"If we get a lot of those communities, (grant funding) doesn't go quite as far as when we have a match," she said. "Those are really important communities to fund."

Applications to start or maintain an Imagination Library are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 30. For more information on submissions go to www.bestbeginningsalaska.org or e-mail Brown at bbrown@bestbeginningsalaska.org.

• Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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