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Opinion
Palm Coast Monday, Apr. 3, 2017 1 year ago

Here's how you can help kids learn to love reading: Support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library

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The Dolly Parton Imagination Library helps 1,300 families in Flagler County.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

The other day at a breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, I felt grateful to be able to sit next to J.B. Birney. Without realizing it, he has helped my family every month for the past two years.

Birney was part of 2010’s Leadership Flagler Class 18, a program that teaches leaders about the community and also gives them a chance to make a difference through service. Birney and his class chose the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends one book per month to every child who signs up, from birth to 5 years old. Included in the 1 million signed up nationwide are 1,300 children in Flagler County. Included in that number is my 2-year-old daughter, Kennedy.

Once a month, we get a book in the mail. For example, Kennedy loves the book, “Little Cub,” by Olivier Dunrea. It’s about a young bear cub who is all alone in the woods, wishing someone would take care of him. On the other side of the woods is an older bear wishing he weren't so lonely. In the end, they meet, and the older bear begins to take care of the cub as if it were his own.

In the few minutes it takes the read the book, Kennedy sits on my lap, and I get to hold her and look at the drawings with her, and it becomes “our book.”

I like to think this is the scene in 1,300 families all around Flagler County, and I believe our community is much better for it. Not only are children and their parents spending quality time together, but children are learning to read. According to a study by the National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”

In 2000, Sanford Newman wrote: “If more access leads to more reading, and if more reading leads to better reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and a larger vocabulary, this means that the first step any literacy campaign needs to take is to make sure children have access to plenty of books.”

Supporting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a great way to help our community, and now is the time to donate. Birney is doing his best to keep it afloat, but the program is struggling and at risk of failing. To help, the Young Professionals Group of Flagler County, led by President Chelsea Barney Herbert, has adopted the DPIL as a benefactor and will match up to $7,500 in donations through May.

To cap it off, there will be a Kentucky Derby event (see the box for details) to raise funds.

This program needs to survive, so I’ve already made my donation. Will you help, too? One person who will appreciate it is Birney. His first grandchild was born recently, and Birney received a memorable text informing him that the infant already had been signed up to start receiving books.

“After all these years of working on it, to have someone in my family take advantage of the program — I literally had to step away from my desk,” Birney said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”

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