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Dolly Parton Imagination Library

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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    Posted: Nov 10 2015 at 11:19am

Updated: 9:39 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 | Posted: 9:00 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015

Free book program boosting student reading scores

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer

BUTLER COUNTY 

A free book program, named in honor of a Nashville musical legend, is improving reading scores for local kindergarten students.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library delivers one age-appropriate, expert-selected, children’s book to the homes of enrolled children in participating communities every month from birth to age 5, said T. Duane Gordon, executive director of the Middletown Community Foundation, one of the local sponsors.

The MCF pays the cost of book purchase and postage for their local children — about $2 per child monthly or $24 per year — while the Dollywood Foundation covers the administration of the program from its central location in Tennessee at no cost to the participating communities, Gordon said. He said the program has about 2,000 participating communities and has distributed about 70 million books.

In Middletown, where the program has operated the longest, just about half of all eligible children are signed up for the books, Gordon said. Madison Twp. has about 50 percent; 40 percent in Monroe; 35 percent in Edgewood; and 30 percent in Franklin, the most recent community added, Gordon said.

Gordon said Middletown City Schools have asked parents of kindergarten students at the entrance tests whether their child participated in Imagination Library. Entering kindergarten test scores of those who participated in the Middletown program have consistently been at least 8 percent higher than the scores of those who did not receive the books, according to data from the school district data.

In addition, in Middletown, which has the second highest percentage of economically disadvantaged children in Butler County, scoring in the lowest of the three testing bands on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment-Literacy (KRA-L) dropped from 50 percent the year prior to the start of the program to about 30 percent the last time the test was given, he said.

One new factor on the most recent Ohio Department of Education report cards surprised Gordon and those at the MCF. When kindergartners’ reading skills were measured, the percentage reading below target for grade level was 54 percent for Franklin City Schools, compared to 28 percent in Middletown, 21 percent in Madison, 15 percent in Edgewood and 14 percent in Monroe.

The only “significant difference” among the districts other than Middletown having the largest concentration of poverty, was that the test was given prior to the first books being sent from Imagination Library to Franklin children, Gordon said. As more children in Franklin receive the books, he expects that number to drop and come more in line with the figures seen in surrounding districts.

Locally, the first books arrived in Middletown children’s homes in January 2009. Madison Twp, Monroe and the Trenton children were offered books in 2011, and Franklin in 2014, Gordon said.

As of October, 142,000 books have been delivered to 7,285 local children. There are 3,188 children enrolled in the program, and Gordon predicts the 150,000th book will be met in January or February.

There are 38 chapters covering more than 45,000 children throughout Ohio, with the most recently added being Cincinnati.

The Middletown Community Foundation over the past seven years has spent about $300,000 on the purchase of these 142,000 books, Gordon said. He called those expenses “a very good investment in our children and their future.”

Middletown parents agreed with Gordon’s assessment.

Sara Flynn registered her son, Theodore, now 2½, when he became eligible for the program. Flynn said she tries to read to her son every night. She is five months pregnant with her second child.

She called reading “a bonding experience” that electronics like TVs and computers can’t provide.

Reading “is a lost art” to her generation because of the advancements in technology, she said.

“If we don’t demonstrate good reading patterns, they will die off,” she said.

The first book every child receives is “The Little Engine That Could” and the last book each child receives is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come,” both with special messages inside of them from Parton, Gordon said. Other than those two selections, each month’s book is based on the child’s year of birth, which allows for different books for multiple children in a home. For example, this month, children born in 2015 will receive “Corduroy Goes To The Doctor,” while those born in 2013 get “King Jack and the Dragon.”

Receiving the books is a monthly ritual in the Proffitt house, said Missy Proffitt. She said her daughter, Jora, 3, looks forward to receiving the books and gets excited at reading time. She said the books are kept in the living room, and when a new book arrives, that’s the one her daughter selects to read with her mother.

“After a week or so, we then go back to her favorites,” Proffitt said.

She has already seen her daughter make improvements recognizing letters and words. Based off the data, she believes Jora will be better prepared for kindergarten because of the Imagination Library program.

“All of this experience will add up to enthusiasm,” she said. “She is already learning to love to read.”


HOW TO PARTICIPATE

To qualify for the free books through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library the child’s parent must live in one of the five school districts served by the Middletown Community Foundation (Middletown, Monroe, Madison, Franklin, or Edgewood).

To register for the program, go online to imaginationlibrary.com or fill out a paper form available at the Community Foundation offices, Atrium Medical Center, WIC offices, public libraries, and several other locations in the community.

Books are ordered one month in advance around the first of the month, so it takes one to two months before books begin arriving at the child’s home after registering.

 Thumbs Up Teaching children to love books and reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Thanks to Middletown Community Foundation.

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