— Volumes of research resoundingly show that the first 5 years of a child’s life are when the brain is developed. A key to strong brain development is reading and interaction with parents. Embracing that research, in 2008 we became a Born Learning® and Success By 6® United Way to provide more resources to parents and families for raising children. We added a link to Born Learning® on our website; annually produce and distribute the Getting Ready for Kindergarten calendar to families with pre-schoolers; assemble new baby packets for families at Presence; and initiated the Dolly Parton Imagination Library through which we purchase books to be sent to children’s homes ages birth to 5 years old, free of charge, in Vermilion County, Illinois, and Fountain and Warren Counties, Indiana.
Reading is one of the most essential gateways for children on the path to success in school, life and eventually in the workplace. It is the mechanism through which many other vital life skills are acquired and improved. Reading to children even before they can hold a book on their own is one of the smartest choices parents and caregivers can make. Speaking to an 8-month-old infant improves her vocabulary at age 3 (Hart and Risley 1995). Graduating from high school can be predicted reasonably well by the level of reading skills at the end of grade 3 (Slavin et al 1994).
Since we began offering the Imagination Library to our community in August 2011, 24,348 books have been sent to children’s homes with our investment of $52,725 in the program! In addition to Dollywood Foundation making the books available at amazing affordable prices, our investment has been made largely possible by generous donors: A. L. Webster Foundation, John P. Cadle Foundation, Presence USMC, Altrusa International of Danville, Canon John Flattery, Carle, Mervis Family Foundation, Breakfast Kiwanis Club, the Indiana Association of United Ways, Old National Foundation, Georgetown Ladies Community Club, the Warren County Community Foundation, the Western Indiana Community Foundation, and individual donors. We are deeply grateful for their heartfelt gifts.