July 2018 will mark quite the milestone for the United Way of Aroostook’s Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

With the July mailing of over 2,200 books to County preschoolers, the program will be sending out its 100,000th book!  The program, which is a nationwide initiative, puts a new, age-appropriate book in the hands of children each month, free of charge to families in Aroostook. Any child under the age of five, living in Aroostook County, is eligible to enroll in the program. The current number of children enrolled in the program is just over 2,200.  Over the course of the years, the program has “graduated” 1,541 children from the program, meaning they’ve turned five years old.

Since its inception in the county, the program has grown exponentially due to the support of the UWA and its partners. The United Way of Aroostook and its Board of Directors have supported this program since 2013.

“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.  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.”

Research suggests that spending just 15 minutes a day with your preschooler, starting at birth, improves early reading skills, better preparing your child for kindergarten readiness.  The Dolly Parton’s Program helps put quality literature in the homes of all registered children age birth to five in Aroostook County.  The monthly books arrived addressed to the children and help to remind families to take some time to read together.

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

This program is funded 100% by United Way of Aroostook and several sponsors. The partners include all four county hospitals which promote the program, encouraging and assisting families of newborns to register their children. Additional partners are Gallagher Insurance, Maibec, Kiwanis, and Rotary International.

However, this valuable early literacy program comes with a hefty price tag of nearly $58,000 and United Way is currently seeking support from the community to continue the program here in Aroostook.  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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