FLINT — Flint Public Library, as part of an initiative to ensure every child in Genesee County enters the school system prepared, has begun The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, offering families a chance to have their child reading before grade school.
The new initiative was made possible by a $541,700 grant from the Flint Child Health and Development Fund and the Flint Kids Read Fund of the Foundation for Flint, a supporting organization of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Children from birth through 5 years of age can enroll in the program.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library will mail out a new book each month considered age-appropriate. A nonprofit founded by the country singer in 1995, the organization has been brought to over 2,000 communities spanning four countries.
Kay Schwartz, director of the Flint Public Library, said she hopes to reach all 11,000 kids in the Flint zip codes. The library has been working with the Genesee County Literacy Network to kickstart a comprehensive approach to literacy called Flint Kids Read, and Schwartz said the new program is just the beginning.
“We want all of our children to be healthy and ready to read once they enter kindergarten,” said Schwartz during the launch event.
JaNel Jameson, director at the Flint Literacy Network, said the program aims to reach low-income families affected by the Flint Water Crisis. The literacy network has built a coalition with partners such as The United Way of Genesee County and University of Michigan-Flint.
“Even with the strength of those partners, we know that we cannot achieve our goals without the help of community members,” said Jameson.
Schwartz said the program works with a group of educators to select the books, and the library and local preschools will also receive copies in addition to the families. This enables the program to coordinate with the curriculum.
“Reading to children from birth is the best way to ensure they’ll be ready to read when they enter kindergarten,” said Schwartz. “With this program Flint children will have lots of books of their very own at home, in addition to the books they can borrow from the library.”