The children’s book distribution program that United Way of Tarrant County brought to Tarrant County seven years ago has passed the 100,000 book milestone.
Established by recording artist Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a national program that mails free books monthly to the homes of enrolled children from birth to age 5 to encourage a love of reading and foster future school success. Children who begin the program at birth can accumulate 60 books, beginning with “The Little Engine That Could” and ending with “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.” Some books are available in Spanish.
United Way offers the program where there is the greatest need. It currently includes 23 ZIP codes that touch 11 Tarrant County communities. United Way provided start-up funds, administers the program locally, enrolls children and solicits underwriting. “Numerous studies have shown that having books in the home during the preschool years helps youngsters prepare to succeed in school,” said LaToya Stewart, United Way Community Development Vice President. “We brought Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Tarrant County because we know education is a key building block to a good life.”
The local program began in 2008 by enrolling preschoolers in four ZIP codes: 76119 (Forest Hill/Southeast Fort Worth), 76105 (East Fort Worth), 76010 (Central Arlington) and 76040 (Euless). Over the years the list grew to also include Fort Worth ZIP codes 76104, 76110, 76111, 76112 and 76164; Arlington areas 76006, 76011, 76012, 76014 and 76018; and 76039 in Euless, 76117 in Haltom City, and 76148 in Watauga.
Last month the area served by the program has expanded again with the addition of 76028 (Burleson), 76063 (Mansfield), 76116 (Fort Worth), 76134 (Edgecliff Village), 76135 (Lake Worth), and 76179 (Eagle Mountain).
Enrollment initially was done with pen and paper at schools and other venues. The program passed the 79,000 book mark two years ago, but the introduction of online enrollment propelled the number past the 100,000 milestone in recent weeks to the current total of more than 101,000 free books distributed to more than 3,900 area children.
Anyone who lives in one of the program’s ZIP codes may participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Sign up online at www.imaginationlibrary.com. (Click on “REGISTER MY CHILD” at the top and follow the instructions.)
“We can expand the program to more ZIP codes if we have more funding,” said LaToya Stewart. She welcomes anyone interested in providing more underwriting for the program to contact her at LaToya.Stewart@unitedwaytarrant.org or 817-258-8115.
For several years Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County has provided most of the local funds needed to pay for the books and mailing costs. “The key to learning is being inspired to read,” said Lisa Witkowski, Child Care Program Director of Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County. “We are proud to be part of this program to help a child be excited about receiving their own books.”
Along with Workforce Solutions, United Way introduced Imagination Library to Tarrant County with the help of the Red Oak Foundation; Northeast Fund; Martha Sue Parr Trust, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Trustee; and Partners Together For Health—The foundation for JPS Health Network.