RUSSELLVILLE — When the Franklin County Community Education program began the Imagination Library in 2006, no one knew how many pre-school children it would help or how long the program might be active.
“I was handed a folder about the (Imagination Library) program and asked to see what we could do,” program coordinator Carla Hutto said.
She said no one knew how much interest the program would generate when the decision was made to move forward.
That question has been answered.
“We had over 500 graduate from the program,” Hutto said. “We have 200 enrolled right now. It’s really been amazing.”
Hutto said when children reach 5 years old, they move on to kindergarten.
The Imagination Library began in east Tennessee in 1996 as part of the Dolly Parton Foundation. The purpose is to get children interested in reading at a young age. Franklin County joined 10 years later.
The program provides books for children, from birth to 5 years old, at no cost to parents.
In 2000, the Imagination Library program was launched worldwide. There are now 1,600 communities in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom involved, with 70,000 children receiving a book each month.
“The program strengthens the family unit, emphasizing to parents the need to read together from the very earliest age and then instilling in the children the love of reading,” Hutto said. “I tell children if they read they will be smart.” Hutto said the Franklin County program receives assistance from local residents and businesses along with the Northwest Alabama Resource, Conservation District.
“My 4-year-old niece is involved in the program and she loves it,” said Heath King, RC&D program assistant. “They had 240 children involved in the program last year. It’s great to be able to see these younger children getting interested and involved in reading.” Hutto said children get age-appropriate books mailed to their homes once a month.
“We had one mother registered for the program before her child was born,” Hutto said. “She started getting the books as soon as the baby was born.”
The program recently received a $2,500 grant through the Northwest RC&D operation. Hutto said the money is used to purchase books.
She said it costs about $30 per child to maintain the program.
“The more funding we get the more children we can take on,” she said.
“Programs like the Imagination Library can give children a head start on reading and can be very important when it’s time for them to enroll in school,” RC&D Chairman Larry Hayes said.
For more information on the program, call 256-331-0005.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757.