The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 20, 2013

Effort underway to purchase books for 500 children

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — Hundreds of Valley children are hoping to receive the gift of reading through an initiative of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council of the Susquehanna River Region, which aims to bring books to area youth.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program aims to provide a free book each month to children preparing to start kindergarten, which fits well with the local and national United Way Women’s Leadership Councils’ initiatives to support early-grade literacy, said Keri Albright, Greater Susquehanna United Way president and CEO.
“(Dolly Parton) recognized that a lot of kids, especially kids that are living on lower incomes, weren’t starting school ready to learn, with a love of reading,” Albright said. “(The program) puts books in the hands of children under the age of 5 to get them ready for kindergarten.”
The local Women’s Leadership Council brought the program to the Valley and is looking to raise money to purchase books for 500 children for a year, Albright said. 
The group has $7,000 left to raise toward the initiative, which now has a waiting list of children hoping to receive books.
For $25, individuals or businesses can provide books for one child for one year, Albright said.
“That’s amazing,” said Marsha Lemons, a United Way board member and Women’s Leadership Council member.
All money donated goes directly toward purchasing books for children, Albright said.
The number of children who registered for the program was a refreshing surprise for Lemons, she said. 
“It is amazing to me that the word is out there, and that enough people appreciate the possibility (reading brings) to their child,” she said.
Getting books into the hands of children through age 5 is important because it gives them a chance “to start out on the right foot,” Lemons said.
“This is going to set them up for life and there’s a lot of kids in our area that don’t get that initiative,” she said.
However, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is not focused on low-income families and is open to children regardless of family income, Albright said, noting students of all backgrounds registered for the local program.
“Frankly, with more practice in reading, every kid will do better,” she said.