January 22, 2015 – “Oh, the places you’ll go! This is not just a beloved book by Dr. Seuss, but the dream of every parent and teacher of a child. Building a strong foundation in reading helps children get on their way and that is what we are doing with our Imagination Library program” states Candi Lalonde, Executive Director for Edgefield County First Steps. “By putting quality books in the homes of our youngest children, we are helping them start on their way to school readiness and success.
The Imagination Library is the creation of country music star Dolly Parton, and was started in her home town of Sevier County, Tennessee in 1996. The Dollywood Foundation provides books free to all preschoolers in Sevier County. In 1999, Dolly announced she would extend the opportunity to communities nationally to replicate the Imagination Library in their own area. Each community must financially support the effort, but the foundation provides technical assistance, assists with public relations and marketing materials, and coordinates the ordering and mailing of the books.
The program itself is very simple. Children who are registered for the program are Edgefield County residents and receive a book a month until their 5th birthday. There is no cost at all to the family and the books are mailed directly to the children at their homes. Edgefield County First Steps actively raises money through donations from individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses (these are referred to as “sponsors”). Over $3,700 was raised last year and First Steps hopes to increase that this year.
Since January 2005, over 14,000 books have been mailed to Edgefield county children. Children referred by DSS and the health department are targeted. Of the children enrolled, 52% have fewer than 10 books in their homes. The families whose children are enrolled complete a survey before any books are sent, and another survey after they have been enrolled for one year. Most recent survey responses indicate a 43% increase in the amount of time families spend reading to their child after being enrolled in this program for at least one year. Research shows that reading to children early and often is one of the best ways to ensure success in school. Just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read.
This year’s goal is set at $5,000, and the fundraising campaign has begun. All money raised goes directly for books. If you would like to sponsor a child this year, it only costs $27 for one child to receive 12 books. Donations are accepted all throughout the year. All donations are tax deductible and checks should be made payable to Edgefield County First Steps. The mailing address is P.O. Box 295, Edgefield, S.C. To sponsor a child, or for more information, please contact Candi Lalonde at 275-0800.
Edgefield County First Steps wants to thank the generous sponsors in this edition of The Edgefield Advertiser for their commitment to the education of the children of Edgefield County in 2014.