Since 2020, the Marion Public Library has worked to recruit local children from birth to age five for the Imagination Library. So far, 47% of eligible local children have signed up to receive a book in their mailbox each month at no cost to the family from Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The Marion Public Library is hoping to reach its goal of at least 50% of eligible children this year.
“Studies have shown that reading consistently from birth to age five helps the brain and helps the child learn to read and succeed as adults,” said Diane Watson, communications manager for the Marion Public Library. “Having books in a child’s home correlates to future success.”
The Marion Imagination Library is free to the children. A parent can sign a child up at the library or online at MarionLibrary.org/ImaginationLibrary
The Imagination Library started as an effort by Dolly Parton in 1995 in Tennessee. It expanded to Ohio to start the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Ohio in 2020. The State of Ohio covers 50% of the cost of the books. As the county partner, Marion Public Library must raise the other 50% to mail the books to the current 1815 local kids.
Local children receive high-quality books thanks to generous local donors who contribute to the Marion Imagination Library fund at Marion Community Foundation. A $25 donation covers 12 books for a child for one year. A donation of $125 covers a child’s books from birth to age five.
“This is an investment in local children and their future,” Watson said. “Reading is critical for success. Providing books promotes reading, and literacy and is proven to increase test scores and help children succeed in reaching their educational goals.”
The Marion Imagination Library program is a great resource, said Lindsey Miller of Marion. She has five children, including two four-year-old twins.
“It’s a great program. My twins are enrolled. They have inclusive, diverse stories. My kids love the different books. Sometimes they take them to bed and pretend to read them themselves, too,” said Miller, a local mother. “I love to read and I love to instill the love of reading in them, too.”
Paring Marion Imagination Library, My First Library Card, and the habit of reading 20 minutes daily to a child has become the Library and Let’s Read 20’s Literacy Success Plan mantra. It all starts at birth.
Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library in honor of her father, a smart man who was illiterate. So far, more than 182,571,673 books have been delivered to children worldwide.
The Marion Public Library asks the community for help spreading the word to parents of young children aged 0 to 5. They want to reach a much higher percentage of all eligible children receiving the gift of books.
About 36 million Americans are illiterate. Struggling with reading makes it more likely a student will drop out of high school without a diploma. The US Census says 10% of Ohio adults don’t have a high school diploma. However, almost 90% of jobs on OhioMeansJobs.com require a high school diploma.
“Education is the path out of generational poverty, and literacy is the handrail,” it says on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Ohio website. “Developing literacy begins at birth. By the age of three, a child’s brain is already 80% developed, and, by the time a child enters kindergarten, they must already know thousands of words in order to succeed in the classroom. Reading aloud to a child and giving them access to books is the best way to ensure they are prepared to enter kindergarten.”
Donations to support local kids receiving the books can be made at the Marion Public Library, on the library’s website, or through the Imagination Library Fund at the Marion Community Foundation.