Reading – it’s been the foundation of education since the beginning of the written word. It’s one of the three Rs.
Students learn in school “Reading Is Fun.” There are annual book fairs where students could choose books they want to take home.
The Read Aloud program brings volunteers into the schools to read to classes and ask the question “What Are You Reading?”
In 1995, Dolly Parton created the Imagination Library to ensure that children birth to five-years-old had access to books.
Parton was inspired to start the program by her father, who could neither read nor write. It began in her home county of Sevier in Tennessee and grew to include all 50 states.
By 2003, the Imagination Library had mailed one million books. It became international in 2006, by expanding into Canada. It is also now in the United Kingdom, Australia and the Republic of Ireland.
Most importantly, it is available in Pocahontas County.
The Pocahontas County Board of Education has participated in the program for many years and, as of November 2023, 69 percent of the children under the age of five in the county have been enrolled in the program.
“It usually begins with hospitals,” ELA coach Stephanie Burns said. “When a baby is born, there will be a person there who will help sign up the child, and they will receive a book per month until they turn five years old. It may take up to eight to twelve weeks before they get their first book.”
Signing up for the program is free to families, thanks to the support of the June Harless Center at Marshall University and the board of education.
School superintendent Lynne Bostic said it is important to know that if a child is not signed up through the hospital at birth or by their pediatrician, they can still sign up as long as they are younger than five years of age.
The registration form is one sheet and is easy to fill out either online or on a printed page that can be mailed.
“I can help them fill it out,” Burns said. “If they want to talk to me, I can help them.”
Once a child is signed up, the first book they receive is “The Little Engine That Could.” It is followed by a book a month, and Burns said the books are all age appropriate.
“Some of the books for this program are meant to be read to them and later the child can actually read it themselves,” Burns said.
Burns and Bostic both said the program is really beneficial to children in many ways. They learn the importance of reading by having books read to them and then they learn to read themselves, turning the pages and letting their imaginations soar.
Of the 396 birth to five children in the county, 274 are enrolled in the program.
Although she is happy to see that many children participating, Burns wants to increase the number even more.
“I cannot take credit for that number because they are already signed up, but we still have several children we have not signed up,” she said.
Those interested in signing up for the program may contact the board office at 304-799-4505 or Burns at email@example.com
The registration is also available online at https://imaginationlibrary.com/check-availability/
Select United States, click the “Next” button, then type in your zip code. A box will pop up to say Pocahontas County is eligible. Click on the “Continue” button and from there, the website will take you to the online registration form. It may be filled out online or downloaded as a PDF to be filled out and mailed.