Last updated: October 01. 2013 7:46AM - 936 Views
Ben Loftis Contributing Columnist

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Early literacy is a vital step in creating lifelong readers. The Union County Carnegie Library strives to promote early literacy in a variety of manners, especially through programming geared towards the youngest children (such as storytime) as well as maintaining a collection of reading materials suitable for the youngest of readers. However, families cannot always make it to the library to participate in these programs, and nothing can replace owning your own book.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is here to help. Just by filling out an application (available at the library), your child can receive a free book by mail each month until he or she turns five years old. The program is open to preschool children who live in Union or Spartanburg County or whose parents are employed in those two counties. Several organizations, especially the United Way of the Piedmont, work together locally to make this program possible. One of those organizations is the Union County First Steps, who encourages registrations throughout the community.

“The Dolly Parton Foundation provides the books and a community champion is responsible for funding the postage for the books to be mailed to the homes and for the administrative functions of the program,” Union County First Steps Executive Director Beth Thompson said. “We are very lucky that the United Way of the Piedmont finds great value in this program for our community and is committed to it for so long.”

In August, the Imagination Library reached a significant milestone, donating its one millionth book in the Spartanburg and Union County region.

The success of the program is extremely encouraging and indicates that many children have received a hand in being ready to begin kindergarten.

“The program is important because it helps children and their families build a library of books at home beginning at birth,” Thompson said. “By having books in the home, children can develop a love for reading. Reading to children and having children explore books is vitally important to them being ready to begin school.”

Applications for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are available at both the Carnegie Library and the Union County First Steps office, as well as at Wallace Thomson Hospital (available for new births), Upstate Pediatrics, and the front desk of Union County schools. The program states that it will take approximately 8 to 10 weeks to receive the first book, after which a new book will arrive monthly until the child’s fifth birthday.

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