Carroll County children get free books monthly through Imagination Library
By Haley Schichtl
Thanks to the Imagination Library of Carroll County, 713 children under 5 years old are receiving free age-appropriate books every month.
The Imagination Library is an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and a partnership between Holiday Island, Eureka Springs and Berryville Rotary Clubs and sponsored by the Carroll County Youth Literacy Rotary Foundation (CCYLRF).
In April, the Carroll County Imagination Library started doing a weekly virtual storytime with Rotary members, school district leaders, authors and other members of the community. Rotary Storytime launched on April 13, with Eureka Springs superintendent Bryan Pruitt reading “Otis the Puppy” by Loren Long. The storytime features a new story every Monday night at 7 p.m. on the Facebook page Imagination Library Carroll County.
Members of CCYLRF got the idea when Dolly Parton began weekly bedtime story videos called “Goodnight with Dolly” every Thursday night on www.ImaginationLibrary.com.
“With most of us sheltering at home with our families, now seems like a great time for an Imagination Library children’s book read by a local storyteller,” CCYLRF vice chairman Jodie English-Brown said. “We loved ‘Goodnight with Dolly Imagination Library Bedtime Stories’ so much that we decided to bring it home to Carroll County. We could not have done this without the help of our local Rotary volunteers.”
For the weeks of May 4 and May 11, Rotary Storytime featured Crescent Dragonwagon, an author at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs. The first week, she read her own book, “Will It Be Okay?” and the next week, she read a book by her mother Charlotte Zolotow, “Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present,” for Mother’s Day.
Because of this initiative, Carroll County received the affiliate spotlight from Arkansas Imagination Library for the month of May. Arkansas Imagination Library executive director Charlotte Green sent a message to Imagination Library leaders across Arkansas.
“Since schools have closed, getting books into children’s homes has never been more important,” Green said. “During this challenging time, I encourage you to be creative and innovative like Imagination Library leaders in Carroll County ... to reach more children in your community.”
To enroll a child in the program, the family has to fill out a registration form, which can be found at various locations, including libraries, Loaves and Fishes Food Bank and Flint Street Food Pantry. CCYLRF board member Peggy Lodewyks said she can also send families a form if they call her at 479-244-9595. Kids under 5 years old living in Carroll County are eligible to be in the program.
Lodewyks said 936 children in Carroll County have been registered in the program since November 2017. According to Arkansas Imagination Library, more than 60 percent of Carroll County children under 5 are registered in the program. In Arkansas, 37,155 children are enrolled.
Lodewyks said it is important that families let her know if their address changes after they are registered so the books can be mailed to the right place. Some of the parents in the program told Lodewyks why they and their children like it.
“I’m a big reader. I want to instill in kids the pleasure of reading,” said mother Whitney Adams. “They love getting the books in the mail. My older 8 and 5-year-olds read to my 4 and 2-year-olds and my 8-month child.”
One father, Don Halverson, said learning to read is very important, but the bonding time is priceless.
“We teach the child to eat and to be potty-trained. It is just as important to teach them to read early,” Halverson said. “The world is in overdrive. Let’s go back to the Fred Rodgers approach of talking and telling stories. Build the child’s confidence and personality!”
Special education teacher Melissa Rains mentioned that it is easier for children with dyslexia to read with books rather than with computers or tablets.
“The lighting and tracking is difficult to process,” Rains said.
Mother Lacy Warren said she likes that the program encourages families to read with their children, saying it’s great to watch her children’s excitement when they get a new book in the mail.
“It gives children and families time together, something special to look forward to,” Warren said. “It gives books to kids that may not have a library nearby or a way to get there.”
Eureka Springs pre-K teacher Cyndy Calbat said she can tell immediately which children have been read to and which have not.
“The child is more focused and responsive,” Calbat said. “The best way to learn is through reading.”
Green Forest ABC Preschool teacher Amy Rochow said literacy is very important to early child development.
“It helps children develop vocabulary and comprehension, encourages imagination and creativity, teaches them about different topics and sets them up to succeed,” Rochow said.