The United Way of Mark Twain Area received a grant from the Community Foundation to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program to all communities in their service area.

In Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Ralls, and Shelby Counties, which make up the area served by
the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, several communities have groups that have
stepped up to launch the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program.

In Ralls County, the program is available for children through Friends of the Ralls County
Library. In Lewis County, the program is available for children in the Lewis County C-1
District through the school district. In Monroe City, the program is available through
Friends of the Monroe City Library. In Hannibal, United Way oversees the program for
children who live in the Hannibal School District in Marion County with dollars from the
Riedel Foundation.

This means children in the Canton School District, Palmyra School District, Marion
County R-II School District, all of Shelby County, and rural Monroe County do not
currently have the opportunity to participate in the program.

Through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, children from the time they are
born until they turn five receive one book a month in the mail. If a child is enrolled in the
program at birth, the child will have a personal library of 60 books by the time he or she
enters kindergarten. These books are selected by a team of experts to be age
appropriate, encourage positive character development, teach age appropriate skills, and more.

Additionally, they provide the opportunity for young people build strong bonds with
caregivers who engage with the children through the books.

“Exposure to books and reading is one of the biggest indicators of school success,” said
Kathy Nicholson, Director of the Parents as Teachers Program in Palmyra. “Books create
a warm bond between parents and their children when they read together, building
language and critical thinking skills.”

Though there is no cost to the families to participate in the program, the cost is $25 per
child per year for the program to take place – that is a cost of around $2.10 per book. In
communities throughout the world, groups work to raise these funds and administer the
program so children can have books delivered to their door.

The Community Foundation awarded United Way with a $3,655.08 grant from the
Unrestricted Endowment Fund. United Way’s Board of Directors voted to add dollars to
the fund so $7,500 will be available for communities to access in order to launch the
program.

Denise Damron, Executive Director of the United Way, will be seeking groups in the
unserved communities within the United Way territory to launch the Dolly Parton
Imagination Library Program. Dollars from this grant will be awarded to the groups to
pay for the estimated cost of the first two years of the program.

Nicholson has wanted to see the program expand to Palmyra for several years. However,
finding funding to do that was the initial hurdle. With this funding now available,
Nicholson is hopeful a group will take on the program and see that it can serve young
people in Palmyra.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to get more books into the hands of young children,”
said Nicholson.

Individuals and groups in communities interested in receiving seed dollars to launch the
Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program are invited to reach out to Denise Damron at
United Way by calling 573-221-2761 or e-mailing director@unitedwaymta.org.

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