(June 29, 2018) – United Way of Southern Kentucky announced today that it has mailed its 200,000th book this month through its Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program puts books in the hands of local children to assist in fostering a love for reading and therefore better preparing children for Kindergarten. All children from newborn to age five are eligible to register into the program in the county in which it is offered. Once registered, each child will receive one age-appropriate book mailed directly to their home each month until the age of 5.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was initiated in east Tennessee in 1995 by Dolly Parton. Since its inception, over 100 million books have been distributed to children across four countries.  Recognizing the need to strengthen and support early literacy efforts and to ensure all young children get the best start possible, United Way of Southern Kentucky brought Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to Southern Kentucky in 2011. Support of the Imagination Library from generous contributions like those made by those like Fruit of the Loom, Logan Aluminum, U.S. Bank and many more help to ensure that children in our communities have access to books, thereby increasing their chance for future success. Currently 4,548 children across Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, and Warren Counties are enrolled in the program.

The Imagination Library program increases the accessibility of age-appropriate books in all households. The first book mailed to each child is “The Little Engine That Could” and upon graduating the program, the month the child turns 5, they receive “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come.”  When age-appropriate books are accessible in the home, children gain an appreciation for reading and are better prepared for kindergarten. The program is designed to build a stronger community by ensuring all children have access to the essential tools to build stronger literacy skills.  

The Imagination Library program also encourages early reading, which is essential for language and cognitive development in young children. Research shows access to age-appropriate reading materials in low-income households is severely insufficient.  According to national data, 75 percent of children who are reading below grade level in third grade will remain behind in high school. In addition, children from low-income families are three times more likely to have dropped out of school or be unemployed by the ages of 16-19 because of the educational barriers they encounter.  By giving children from all socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to develop necessary early learning skills, they are getting a boost towards lifelong education success.

Support of programs like United Way’s Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program is just one way that United Way is working to reach its Big Bold Goal in Education of increasing BRADD Kindergarten Readiness scores from 53.4% to 75% by the year 2020.

After an extensive 18-months of research by United Way into the needs of the Southern Kentucky community that began in 2012, United Way of Southern Kentucky identified Kindergarten Readiness as an issue on which to take a greater focus. From the research, it was discovered that nearly 50% of local children in Southern Kentucky are entering kindergarten on day one deemed ‘not ready’ to succeed. Since that time and discovery, United Way has set forth a bold goal of increasing the number of children who are ready for kindergarten to 75% by the year 2020. In order to reach this goal, United Way has also adjusted their funding structure to allow for 20% of annual funding to impact this particular area -specifically targeted at Kindergarten Readiness programs.

For those wishing to enroll their child into the program, United Way of Southern Kentucky will be holding a series of enrollment events as part of its annual Day of Caring on July 25th at the following locations:

            ALLEN COUNTY: Sonic (350 Gallatin Road) Free cone to all families that sign up!

            HART COUNTY: McDonald’s in Munfordville (100 Old Main Street) Location will also

provide food coupons for use at location!

            WARREN COUNTY: Wendy’s (2638 Scottsville Road)

Parents wishing to enroll their children under the age of five into this program to begin receiving books free of charge to the family can do so by visiting one of these locations on July 25th. Volunteers will be onsite to assist with enrollments from 2pm to 6pm.

Those wishing to support the Imagination Library can do so by texting the keyword READY to 41444 to make a donation. For only $35 per year, a child can receive the gift of one book mailed directly to their home each month free of charge to the family.

For more information about United Way’s work in Kindergarten Readiness, log on to the United Way of Southern Kentucky website at www.liveunitedtoday.com.  

United Way of Southern Kentucky (UWSK) is a local, independent, non-profit organization that works to identify and address the issues that matter most, change conditions and improve lives. The mission of United Way of Southern Kentucky is to be the leader in bringing together the resources to build a stronger, more caring community. United Way is focused on the building blocks for good quality of life – Education, Income, Health and Safety Net. Therefore, the vision of United Way is a Southern Kentucky where all residents are educated, healthy, and financially stable. Incorporated as a charitable non-profit entity in 1956, UWSK has long served a major role in the community by bringing people together to create opportunities that make a measurable difference in the quality of life for people where they live and work.

#          #          #