United Way mobilizes the community to sponsor children in an early childhood literacy program


March is National Reading Month, and United Way of Southwest Michigan is encouraging the community to rally around early childhood literacy by sponsoring children to participate in Dolly Parton’s Fantasy Library.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) serves children from birth to age 5 to help them develop early literacy skills, foster a love of reading and prepare to enter Kindergarten. Children enrolled in the DPIL receive a specially selected, age-appropriate book mailed to their home each month until their 5th birthday. This program not only affects kindergarten readiness, but it also has a big impact on third-grade reading skills.

The DPIL is provided free of charge to all children under 5 and their families, regardless of income. However, the cost for United Way to provide this program is $25 per child per year. Currently, more than 7,000 children are enrolled in the DPIL in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties.

UWSM’s goal for this March campaign is to sponsor 250 children for the full five years!


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How you can help!

Everyone is invited to sponsor one or more children to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Sponsor a child for a year
provide 12 books – $25

Sponsor a child for three years
provide 36 books – $75

Sponsor a child for the whole program, five years
provide 60 books – $125

To sponsor, visit //uwsm.org/DPIL.

Why Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Matters to Southwest Michigan

According to the Michigan Department of Education, 56% of third graders in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties are not achieving reading skills.
75% of children who are bad readers in third grade will be bad readers in high school. Many of these children will struggle or eventually drop out of school.
For children to have the right reading skills in third grade, efforts to develop reading skills need to start much earlier. Research shows that the home learning environment, even from a child’s birth, has a huge impact on a child’s short-term and long-term reading ability.
Children develop much of their learning capacity during the first three years of life, when their brains reach 90% of their eventual adult weight.
Studies show that when children enter school with age-appropriate language and literacy skills, they are more likely to read at grade level or above in third grade. They are also better prepared to succeed in higher grades.
A child’s immersion in a literacy-rich environment from birth may be a better predictor of literacy and academic achievement than family income.

Singer Dolly Parton, founder of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, said, “Growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community who have their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there’s a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and a singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books, and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.


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