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Imagination Library has delivered hundreds of thousands of books to children from birth to age 5 — a span critical in children’s learning.
Tennessee’s Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation is dedicated to the partnership with Imagination Library.
Theresa Carl, who is the newest president of Books from Birth, made a presentation recently at the Harriman Rotary Club. She shared how important it is to start working with children early.
“A child’s brain is at least 80 percent developed by the time they are 3 years old,” Carl said.
Carl said not only do the books impact individual children, but also the community as a whole, because children may have more opportunity for educational success. This can mean greater economic viability and quality of life in a community.
With 65 percent of eligible children enrolled, Roane County Imagination Library itself has a high percentage of enrollees compared to others in the state.
Roane County’s program began in September 2004 and has distributed about 147,000 books in Roane County in 2012 — an average of 1,760 books a month.
The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation match dollar for dollar the Roane Imagination Library funds.
The local Imagination Library must raise approximately $1 per book, including the cost of postage.
“It is not a small amount of money that needs to be raised,” Carl said to Rotary.
The state has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to provide books to all children in foster care.
“All children need books, but these children in particular love having something of their very own,” Carl said.
While the books are for any child from birth until their fifth birthday, getting children in lower socieconomic environments enrolled is vital.
Carl said those children typically hear 30 million fewer words by the time they are 4. Reading a beloved book, sometimes over and over to an empassioned child, can make all the difference.
“How many times do you have to read the same book over and over again? When a child falls in love with reading, that is just continuing to build up in their brains and the way they learn,” Carl said.
Roane Imagination Library coordinator Jill McMasters said the program is now able to focus more on enrollment, thanks to the help of a fundraising initiative by Pro2Serve, which matched all new dollars raised up to $5,000.
Worldwide, more than 40 million books have been distributed. Programs are in 47 of 50 states, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. Children can be enrolled at imaginationlibrary.com.
“Tennessee is the only state with the Imagination Library program in all 95 counties,” Carl said.
More than 208,000 children are enrolled in the state — about 51 percent of the state’s eligible population.