Imagination Library: The free gift that keeps on giving | CraigDailyPress.com

Imagination Library: The free gift that keeps on giving

Lauren Blair

Richard Green, 4, and his brother, Julius, 3, read through their favorite books from their Imagination Library collection. Richard's current favorite is "My Baby Blue Jays," by John Berendt, while Julius' favorite book is "I Know A Wee Piggy," by Kim Norman. The Imagination Library program provides a free book by mail each month for children from birth to age 5 in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

— What could be better for a young child than to get a present in the mail every single month addressed directly to them?

And what could be better for a parent than for that present to be a book — something that will educate, enrich and enliven their young child's imagination?

This is exactly the service that Imagination Library provides to children from birth until their fifth birthday, and at no cost to local families.

"I really don't know why you wouldn't do it," said Craig resident Judy Espinoza, who helps take care of her two young grandsons on a daily basis.

Sponsored by Moffat County Youth United Way and Connections 4 Kids, the program was developed by Dolly Parton in order to foster a love of reading in children.

"By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create," the Imagination Library website explains. "Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family's income."

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Connections 4 Kids Coordinator Betsy Overton explained that the program was started for Moffat and Rio Blanco children in 2012 in order to help boost reading scores. The program currently has 292 kids enrolled and 110 kids who have graduated from it.

"Part of the reason we started the program was that TCAP scores were so low in reading," Overton said. "We said, how can we help this situation?… We didn't want kids not having books to be an excuse."

Espinoza and her daughter Rachel Green have participated in the program with Green's two sons for more than two years.

"It's a great way to build a library for your kids," Green said.

Green and Espinoza said they read with the boys — Richard, 4, and Julius, 3 — every day. The youngsters can't seem to get enough.

"I think it's helped foster them wanting to read," Green said. "When they come in the mail, they can't wait to read them."

Richard likes reading the books "before we take a nap," he said.

Espinoza praised the selection, which are picked for each child based on age and gender, and include such classics as "Ferdinand the Bull" and "The Snowy Day." The books even come with questions that parents can ask their children to help boost their learning.

"One of the best things about the books is there's different stuff in the back you can discuss," Green said. "Like, 'How would you feel if that happened to you?'… I think it gives them a little bit more of an understanding."

Research has shown that reading to children at an early age significantly improves their development and their readiness for school.

"It sounds almost too simple to be true, but by reading regularly with your children during their preschool years, you are giving them the biggest boost toward a successful education they will ever get," according to a pamphlet from Connections 4 Kids.

Green said that by reading so much at home, the boys have learned to value storytime when they're at preschool as well. The books also offer an easy way for families to spend time together every day.

"I think it just helps with a love a books," Espinoza said. "I think it's something you grow into. You're not just born with a love of books."

To sign up your child, pick up a registration form from Connections 4 Kids in the Center of Craig or from the Moffat County Library, or visit http://www.imaginationlibrary.com.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.