LOGAN COUNTY – Every child under age 5 in Logan County is eligible to get a free book once a month. Through a United Way of Logan County effort, the Dolly Parton Foundation Imagination Library will provide books for children until their fifth birthday. Registration sites such as day care programs, libraries, doctors’ offices, churches and the United Way office are being set up this fall.
“An alarming percentage of Logan County 5-year-olds who took the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment last fall are not ready to enter school,” said United Way Executive Director Dave Bezusko. In Bellefontaine City Schools, 55 percent of those tested are not ready, according to a United Way brochure. In Benjamin Logan Schools the percentage is 52, followed by 46 percent in Riverside Schools. Indian Lake Schools has the lowest percentage with 33 percent found not ready for kindergarten.
In its fall campaign, the United Way goal is to raise $150,000 to pay for mailing the books to 45 percent, about 1,400 children under age 5, beginning in January, 2017. The Dolly Parton Foundation in Tennessee pays for the books, but mailing costs to children in Logan County have to be raised locally. Children in one family will receive different books. “The first book all children receive is “The Little Engine That Could” because it is Dolly Parton’s favorite book,” says Bezusko. Money will have to be raised each year for the project. United Way has pledged $75,000 over five years for the program.
Dolly Parton began the project in 1996 to benefit children in her home county in east Tennessee. It became so popular that she decided in 2000 to offer it to communities that would partner with her. Studies have shown that early childhood literary has improved drastically when the program is in place and the number of parents who do not ready to their children has dropped to one percent.
“For $25, a donor can provide one child a book a month for a year,” said Bezusko. Anyone interested in becoming a registration site or contributing to the program should contact him at the United Way office at 937-592-2886.
Judy Wherry is a regular contributor to this newspaper.