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Imagination Library initiative underway
new vlc Hoisington DPI pic 1
USD 431 Superintendent Bill Lowry talks about how the Dolly Parton Imagination Library could benefit Hoisingtons youngest, at a community coffee Thursday morning. - photo by Veronica Coons/Great Bend Tribune

Early childhood literacy a USD 431 focus

Earlier in March, USD 431 distributed United Way of Central Kansas literacy kits for the first time, Executive Director Julie Bugner-Smith said. The excitement preschoolers showed when they found a copy of “Curious George Goes to School” in their monkey-shaped backpacks makes her confident the kids will get a lot of enjoyment from the once-a-month new book experience. The kids were especially happy when they learned that they got to keep the books.
“When you go to the library, you can check out books, but these ones you get to keep,” she said.
Sign-up for Imagination Library books will take place only at the library, rather than online, so families will become more aware of that resource that is also available them.
Early childhood literacy is a priority for USD 431, Superintendent Bill Lowry said. That is one reason the district offers preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. In most communities, that is something offered only to at-risk children, but in Hoisington it is available regardless of the family’s income. It is something the district writes into its annual budget because the community values it.
“Early childhood, in my opinion, is the best money you can pay to ensure kids succeed later in life,” he said. “If they can learn to read, things go a lot better for the students and their success rates are higher.”

HOISINGTON — Hoisington residents are encouraging children to pick up books at an early age — even before they are able to read. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is coming to town as a United Way of Central Kansas program, and USD 431 will hold a read-a-thon to raise money for the initiative, Superintendent Bill Lowry said.
The school district hosted a Hoisington Chamber of Commerce coffee last Thursday to kick off the program.
The read-a-thon for children in preschool through fourth grade starts March 27 and will last two weeks. Children can log time they spend reading or being read to by their parents.
Each student has a website which parents can activate through the USD 431 website. The families can reach out through social media to friends and family to raise funds to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Hoisington. Cash or check donations can be dropped off at the USD 431 District Office, and Lowry will ensure the student is credited with the donation.
If the community is successful in bringing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to town, all children from birth to 5 years old who reside in the Hoisington zip code (67544) will be eligible to go to the Hoisington Public Library and register for the program. Children will receive one age-appropriate book per month at no cost to the family.
UWCK Executive Director Julie Bugner-Smith said Ellinwood and Larned already participate in the program, with about 150 children receiving books each month. She urged community members to support kids participating in the read-a-thon. All funds raised will go directly to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library initiative.
“It’s very important to encourage reading at an early age,” she said. “Kids become better students, and that’s better for the community overall.”

Dewey shares family experience
Jacqueline Dewey signed her son Jonathan up for the program at the Ellinwood Library when he was 2. She showed some of the books they’ve received.
“It’s always hard for me to choose which books off our shelf from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that I want to bring because they are all so good,” she said. They can be read “for fun,” but she also finds many of them are good for teaching numbers, letters, and life lessons and manners for preschoolers.
Each of the Dolly Parton books has a flap with suggestions for ways parents can engage their children as they read together. As a substitute teacher, Dewey said she can speak to the importance of this type of engagement with young readers. “I love these flaps because they give me extra ideas on how to read with Jonathan.”
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library costs United Way about $30 a year for each child, Smith said. UWCK would like to raise enough money to fund the first two years of the program in Hoisington in order to ensure it is sustainable. All of the funds remain in the community because if the family moves out of the zip code, they must register in their new community if it has the program available.