First Steps Celebrates 15 Years of Imagination Library Program

First Steps Celebrates 15 Years of Imagination Library Program

Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy said “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Back in 2005, Edgefield County First Steps saw a need in our community and began their partnership with the Dollywood Foundation in order to get books into the homes of young children. Candi Lalonde, Executive Director of Edgefield County First Steps, states “We saw that there were so many children who did not have age-appropriate books in their homes, and we wanted to do something about that. We have been fortunate to be able to continue to meet this need in our community, through the tremendous support of many businesses, groups, organizations and individuals.”

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 5thbirthday. There is no cost 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 $5,000 was raised last year.

Since January 2005, more than 27,000 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 $4,550, 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 2019. Submitted