The Star-Herald

Agency mails 100,000th book to young readers

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — This month marks a milestone for the United Way of Aroostook’s Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. When staff mail more than 2,200 books to County preschoolers this month, they will send out their 100,000th book.

The program, a nationwide initiative, puts a new, age-appropriate book in the hands of children each month, free of charge to local families. Any child under age 5, living in Aroostook County, can enroll in the program.

“The Board of Directors of UWA took over the Dolly’s Imagination Library Program in 2013 and have never looked back,” said Wanda Guiggey, United Way of Aroostook board of directors president.

“Our goal is to provide an age appropriate book to children age 5 and under that will hopefully implant the love of reading in them that will continue for the rest of their lives,” Guiggey said. “We are extremely excited and happy that the program has grown the way it has and that we have reached the 100,000-book benchmark.”  

There are just over 2,200 children enrolled in the program, United Way officials said, and through the years the program has “graduated” 1,541 children — meaning they’ve turned 5 years old.   

Imagination Library helps put quality literature in the homes of registered children.  The monthly books arrive addressed to the children, and help to remind families to take some time to read together.  

Sherry Locke, UWA executive director, said, “The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program is a research-based program that encourages families to read aloud together while also giving parents suggestions on ways to interact with their children to improve literacy skills. Promoting early literacy is one way to help youngsters get the start they need for academic success.”

The United Way and its board have supported the literacy effort since 2013.

“Each month my children and I look forward to receiving our new books,” said parent Courtney Castle, whose two children are enrolled in the program. “It’s such an amazing program to encourage children to learn and continue to read. They even love to ‘read’ to each other.”

United Way and several sponsors fund the program, which comes with a hefty price tag of nearly $58,000.

“United Way is currently seeking support from the community to continue the program here in Aroostook,” Locke said. “A $25 donation to the program will cover the cost of sending monthly books to a child for an entire year.”  

For more information or if you’re interested in supporting this program, call the United Way of Aroostook office at 764-5197 or visit their website at http://www.unitedwayaroostook.org/imagination-library/.

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