Two renowned Alaskans, artist Rie Muñoz and author Jean Rogers have teamed up to promote early literacy for the children of Juneau ages 0 to 5, through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Rogers and Muñoz have been longtime advocates of early literacy and have collaborated in the publication of several children's books. They believe a lot of challenges that children have in schools would be greatly reduced if they arrive at school having been read to.
Through the Imagination Library program children ages birth to five receive a new hardback book every month in the mail until their fifth birthday. The high quality books are selected for by a panel of educators and are geared to the specific age of the child.
The Association for the Education of Young Children administers the Juneau program with support from United Way volunteers. Though the program is free to all children, local sponsors are sought to help expand the program to a goal of 1,000 children - roughly half the children under age 5 in Juneau.
More than 700 children in Juneau are enrolled in the program. Communities In Schools provided funds to launch the program in November 2006, and additional local sponsors include Friends of the Juneau Public Library, United Way of Southeast Alaska, Bartlett Regional Hospital and many individual donors.
Families are encouraged to enroll their child at birth at Bartlett Hospital, and may also enroll at the Juneau Public Library.
"We are very close to reaching an amazing total of 10,000 books delivered to children in Juneau since the program started in Juneau two years ago," Robin Bergey, from AEYC, said.
A child enrolling in Imagination Library at birth would start school at age 5 with a library of at least 60 books of his or her very own. Research shows, and many educators agree, that a child's capacity to learn is developed very early in life.
Anyone that wants to sponsor a child or a group of children can make a donation through AEYC online at www.aeyc-sea.org. The local match to sponsor books for 10 children for a month is $25, and all donations go directly to purchasing the books, with shipping and handling provided by the Dolly Parton Foundation.
"Our Board of Directors is dedicating 100 percent of United Way donations this year directly to enrolling children," Bergey added.
United Way workplace campaign forms are available by calling 463-5530, and at the United Way kickoff event is 5-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. For more information about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, call AEYC at 789-1235.
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