After funding struggles led to a pause for the local branch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, local volunteers have resurrected the program. The Onward Foundation took over the program and has built up funding and participation. Any child who lives in Dolores or Montezuma Counties under five years old is eligible to receive a free book each month curated by the Dollywood Foundation. By Connor Shreve. This story is sponsored by TruWest Auto and Choice Building Supply Ace Hardware
Imagination Library - https://imaginationlibrary.com/
Onward Foundation - https://onwardfoundation.org/
A local youth reading program is thriving again thanks to the work of local volunteers and donors. This edition of the Local News Network is brought to you by TruWest Auto and Choice Building Supply Hardware. I'm Connor Shreve. After a funding shortage, put the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on hold in 2019, the hard work of four Cortez based volunteers has the Youth Reading Program thriving again.
In 2021, nn anonymous manufacturer here in the community donated a hundred thousand dollars to get the program up and operating again.
Volunteer Karen Sheek has since raised more than $130,000 for the program, which provides one book per month to a local child under five years old. The book is chosen and paid for by the Dollywood Foundation. It's a charity started by Dolly Parton, inspired by her father's illiteracy. It's grown into an international organization which partners with local groups, like Cortez's Onward Foundation, which pays for the shipping of the books to local children.
Participation in this program is really an investment in our community. It certainly is important for young kids, because the majority of of pathways that help them be able to read and learn and communicate are formed the first three years of their lives and that's when they're home in most cases.
To qualify, a child simply has to reside in Montezuma or Dolores County. If registered early enough, they'll have a library of 60 books by the time they age out of the program.
And they've done some research saying that if a child has 30 kids books available to them in their home, they end up being a lot better readers. And also the kids that were on this program, I volunteered at kindergarten, I could tell, I'd ask them, did you get Dolly's books? Ah-huh, you could tell 'cuz they knew about reading and they knew about looking at the words and saying words from them, it's like deciphering the reading. And they were excited to learn to read, that's 'cuz they knew that's where the stories came from.
Volunteer Joanie Howland says 630 kids are now a part of the program, a big jump from the 150 that were still signed up when the program was paused in 2019.
That's been a plus for those of us who have worked with the program and were brokenhearted to see it discontinued for a period of time. Hopefully at some point there'll be a stopping point, so that we don't go back to, we've made a point not to go back to any organization that has made a donation a second time, because we kind of made a promise that we want raise the funds that we wouldn't have to do that. So we're continuing to work on that. And of course, part of that process is marketing the program because if we have the money and nobody uses the service, why? So we're quite, as Joanie said, we're quite excited about the fact that we now have 630 kiddos.
The Onward Foundation wants to grow and has the funding to support 1,000 kids, but ultimately wants its endowment to function in perpetuity. If the trend is any indication, they'll get there, but not without the community's help. To register your child for the program, go to imaginationlibrary.org, and to donate, contact the Onward Foundation. Thanks for watching the Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.