BROOKSVILLE — A big-haired singer from Tennessee and several local groups have teamed up to provide books to Brooksville families that cannot easily afford a steady supply of reading material for their young children.
Project Read Up!, as it’s called, is a recently formed partnership between the Brooksville Education Foundation, the Brooksville Free Public Library and the Brooksville Elementary School.
The group’s first move was to become a local sponsor for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a campaign started in 1995 by country music star Dolly Parton to get reading material to kids in underserved communities around the world.
The Imagination Library is now a 60-volume set of books beginning with “The Little Engine That Could.” Families enroll their kids, who can be anywhere from just born to 4 years old. A free book then comes in the mail each month.
According to Mike McMillan, chairman of the Brooksville Education Foundation, the reading group is covering all the costs for the program. At around $2.50 per book per child, he pointed out, the Imagination Library is a pretty good deal.
There are more slots available for Brooksville families to enroll, McMillan said, offering himself (326-9194) as a resource for any other communities interested in sponsoring the Imagination Library.
Over 1,600 communities now provide Imagination Library books to more than 750,000 children each month, according to the group’s webpage.
All children who live year-round in Brooksville and are up to 4 years old are eligible. A registration form is available at Brooksvilleeducationfoundation.org/project-read-up.html.
Participants should mail completed forms to Project Read Up! c/o Brooksville Education Foundation, P.O. Box 277 Brooksville, ME 04617. Forms can also be delivered at the front desks of the Brooksville Free Library or Brooksville Elementary School.
When the books start arriving, parents are urged to read with their children. That, McMillan said, is because all sorts of educational and social benefits have been seen in children who grow up around books and hearing a variety of different words.
One study of children in 42 nations suggested the developmental benefits of bigger home libraries.
“We find that a key aspect of scholarly culture, the number of books in the family home, exerts a strong influence on academic performance in ways consistent with the cognitive skill hypothesis, regardless of the nation’s ideology, political history, or level of development,” the researchers concluded.
Referring to that same study, a recent New York Times article stated that “Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor.”
McMillan, who has served on several local school boards, praised the quality and age-appropriateness of the books provided by Imagination Library, pointing out that the organization has recruited a group of educators to curate the readings.
Having spoken with parents whose kids are already enrolled in the program, McMillan added that the young readers also get a kick out of waiting for each book to arrive in the mail.
“That further excites their interest in reading,” he said.