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Give a Book: How the United Way is promoting early childhood literacy through its Imagination Library

Posted at 11:01 AM, Sep 09, 2020

It's day three of KSBY's "If You Give a Child a Book" campaign that is raising money for brand new books that will be given to students at Arellanes Elementary School.

The United Way is a major proponent of early childhood literacy, and through its Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program, children can receive up to 60 books by the time they reach kindergarten.

"Early learning, early literacy is super important for school success," Leola Dublin Macmillan, resource development director for United Way San Luis Obispo County, said. "For kindergarten readiness, for closing the achievement gap."

Macmillan says the Imagination Library program has provided more than 20,000 books to children in San Luis Obispo County.

"You enroll your child at birth and every month the child gets an age-appropriate book mailed to them and by the time they start school they have 60-book library," Macmillan said. "It's $50 a year, $250 for five years."

She emphasized that the program is for everyone, and low-income families can apply to have their child sponsored.

According to kidsdata.org, in 2019, only 57 percent of students in San Luis Obispo County read at or above the reading standard. That number was 47 percent for students in Santa Barbara County.

"Children who are reaching seventh and eighth grade still reading at the fourth-grade level are not improving their reading skills when they go to high school and college," Eddie Taylor, CEO of Northern Santa Barbara County United Way, said.

Taylor says the Imagination Library program within his branch of United Way is sponsoring anywhere from 300-500 children.

"It was obvious that kids that were enrolled in the imagination library were more prepared for kindergarten," Taylor said.

Taylor says the program is always accepting donations to keep the program going and to provide more books for more children.

"We try to raise a minimum of $25 per child, maximum $50 per year so that, per year, we can keep them enrolled," Taylor said.

"We really just want to connect with folks so they can spread a love of reading and joy of literacy to as many kids in our county as possible," Macmillan said.

For more information on Northern Santa Barbara County United Way Imagination Library, click here.

For more information on San Luis Obispo County United Way Imagination Library, click here.

To donate to KSBY's "If You Give a Child a Book" campaign, click here.