United Way of Northwest Louisiana is expanding the area for it’s very successful preschool reading program to include Red River Parish. United Way’s Jennifer Martin presented “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library” to the July meeting of the Red River Parish School Board.
The project was created by Dolly Parton to encourage young children to begin enjoying reading. Even before they can read, parents begin the process by reading to them. The best part is that it’s all free.
From the introductory brochure Dolly Parton wrote, “Growing up in the Smoky Mountains was a real blessing. There were some tough times, but most of our life was full of the kind of riches money can never buy. One of my most precious memories is sitting in my mother’s lap and listening to her read me stories from the Bible. Parton continued, “Those wonderful moments with my mother inspired me to create my Imagination Library. I hope these books inspire you to read to your child.”
Imagination Library is a set of up to 60 books that will be mailed to your child each month. Ages are birth to 5 years. The first is the children’s classis The Little Engine That Could. Each month your child gets another book. All Dolly Parton asks is that you read to your children.
Jennifer Martin, in presenting the program to the school board said, “Research shows that students who participate in Imagination Library score fifteen percent (15%) higher on kindergarten readiness tests. United Way says a grant has made possible distribution of the books to all eligible students living in Red River Parish.”
Here is more on Imagination Library from Martin:
The program will address early childhood literacy and help children be kindergarten ready. When a child enters kindergarten, it is expected that they demonstrate cognitive abilities, including knowledge and skills in early literacy, such as phonological awareness, print concepts, alphabetic understanding, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and emergent writing; in addition to basic numeracy (rote counting and number awareness, sorting, classifying, comparing, patterning, and spatial relationships).
The grant funding provided by BHP Billiton will allow UWNWLA to support and sponsor nearly 250 children in Red River Parish, birth to five years of age through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) Program. BHP Billiton has provided seed money for three years to fully establish the program in the area. This nationally recognized program provides every child who enrolls with one age appropriate book each month, creating their own personal library. It inspires families to read more frequently to their children and catalyze our community to invest more time, talent and treasures to better prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Funding will need to be secured after the three year grant dollars have been used to maintain the program.
The population served is children from birth to five years of age in Red River Parish zip codes. With this funding, United Way will add all zip codes in Red River Parish to the DPIL program, serving 228 children of the 3,320 households living in the parish. According to the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) Study of Financial Hardship, 40 percent of the population is struggling to afford basic needs.
United Way will focus on two areas that have the highest percent of families living below the ALICE threshold in the first few months: 1) Coushatta (64%) and Martin (44%). In Red River Parish, elementary schools scored a D letter grade, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. Furthermore, 49 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored below grade level on state assessments. Sixty-four percent of children in Red River Parish entering kindergarten are unprepared.
Every child enrolled in the program is tracked through software administered through the Imagination Library Foundation. Ongoing reports are produced and provided to each school in each of the sponsored zip codes so administrators can use to compare DIEBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) testing scores.