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Imagination Library to provide free books

By Tammy Keith

This article was published March 13, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

from-the-left-michelle-ford-program-director-for-arkansas-preschool-plus-in-conway-charlotte-green-executive-director-of-arkansas-preschool-plus-and-first-lady-ginger-beebe-stand-with-a-cardboard-cutout-of-singer-dolly-parton-who-founded-imagination-library-to-provide-free-books-for-a-year-to-children-from-birth-to-5-years-old-at-a-conway-rotary-club-meeting-arkansas-preschool-plus-announced-that-it-is-an-imagination-library-affiliate

From the left, Michelle Ford, program director for Arkansas Preschool Plus in Conway; Charlotte Green, executive director of Arkansas Preschool Plus; and first lady Ginger Beebe stand with a cardboard cutout of singer Dolly Parton, who founded Imagination Library to provide free books for a year to children from birth to 5 years old. At a Conway Rotary Club meeting, Arkansas Preschool Plus announced that it is an Imagination Library affiliate.

CONWAY — Charlotte Green’s goal is to put new books in the hands of every child in Conway, and Dolly Parton is helping her do it.

Green, who is founder of Arkansas Preschool Plus (formerly Lifelong Learners), said that when she heard about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, it sounded perfect for Conway.

“We looked more into it and thought that would be something great to bring our community,” Green said.

Arkansas Preschool Plus will be the library’s affiliate.

Through Imagination Library, Green said, books are available at a discounted rate.

For $25 a year, a child from birth to age 5 will be mailed one free book a month for a year.

“Kids don’t have the power to go out and buy their own books,” Green said.

Sponsors have been recruited thus far to provide books for two years to 300 children in Conway, she said.

Green said that when more money is obtained, more children will get the books.

“We live in such a great community,” Green said.

The kickoff for the project was held Feb. 26 at the Conway Rotary Club with first lady Ginger Beebe as the guest speaker. Beebe is a champion for literacy, Green said.

The books, geared toward the child’s age, are “quality books,” Green said.

Imagination Library is very “clear about how there’s no criteria for who gets the books,” she said.

“Children love mail, no matter if you live in a two-story house or an apartment. Everybody loves getting mail,” Green said.

“It has their name on it and is a book personally for them every month and is going to foster a love for reading that has no economic barrier,” she said. “Every child will benefit from opening the mailbox and pulling a book out.”

Green, gifted-and-talented and Advanced Placement supervisor for the Conway School District, said not only is being read to crucial for preschool children, but the interaction between parent and child is important, too.

“A book is a good venue to have a conversation, and there’s power in that,” Green said.

Parents of children from birth to 5 who live in ZIP codes 72032 or 72034 may register for the program at www.ImaginationLibrary.com.

She said paper sign-up sheets are available at preschools that participate in the Arkansas Preschool Plus program.

Started as Lifelong Learners with four pilot preschools, Green said the new name “aligns more with who we are — we want to be the plus.” The program has grown to include 16 preschools, Green said.

She said Arkansas Preschool Plus has two main components: training staff at private day cares and preschools to help better prepare children for school; and providing home support, which is where Imagination Library comes in, she said.

“We also will use that as a way of creating some level of database so we can connect to our preschool parents and give them additional support, maybe through an electronic newsletter,” Green said.

“We want to put books in the hands of kids, but we also want to engage the parents of those preschool programs so they can have support.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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