JUNEAU - More than 5,000 high quality books have been delivered directly to young children in Juneau this year, thanks to sponsors of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Juneau. Six hundred children, or 30 percent of the children in Juneau under age 5, have received a new book monthly in the mail this year.
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"Dolly Parton grew up in a home without books, and her vision is that all young children will have their very own books," said Robin Bergey, the enrollment coordinator of the program at the Association for the Education of Young Children. "When kids have access to their own books, they are incredibly good at getting an adult to sit down and read with them."
According to Bergey, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of adults reading with children on a daily basis. A survey two years ago of parents of preschoolers showed that only 50 percent of Juneau parents were reading daily with their preschoolers, similar to national statistics. Last month an identical survey found that 76 percent of parents are now reading an average of a book a day or more with their preschoolers.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program was launched by a literacy task force in December of 2006 with a $9,000 grant from Communities In Schools, which was matched by support from local organizations and individuals. Task force members include AEYC, Communities In Schools, KTOO, United Way of Southeast Alaska, the Juneau Public Library and Tlingit and Haida Head Start.
"Parents reading with children is one of the most important predictors of school readiness," according to Elsa Demeksa, executive director of Communities In Schools, a local organization committed to increasing graduation rates in Juneau.
"A child that can read, is a child that will succeed," Demeksa said. "This program gets right to the heart of the matter - putting books directly into the hands of children and families."
The local match to sponsor a child is $30 per year, for 12 hard cover books tailored to the age of the child.
"A donation in a child's name is a fabulous gift idea for any child" stated Bergey. Due to generous volunteer support, the funds go directly to purchasing the books, which are mailed by the Dollywood Foundation. "This program has proved it works, and now we need to keep the train rolling for a second year," emphasized Demeksa.
The literacy task force invites individuals, businesses, and organizations to be part of this successful effort. Sponsors are recognized by a display at the downtown library. Sponsor forms and enrollment forms are located at the Mendenhall Valley and downtown libraries, on the AEYC Web site at www.aeyc-sea.org or by calling 789-1235.
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