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Dolly Parton Imagination Library arrives in Ellinwood
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Shelby Steffan, Ethan Robl, and Drake Hosman are excited about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library books soon to be available to preschool children in the Ellinwood area. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

ELLINWOOD — Ellinwood preschool children are invited to hop aboard Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program designed to give free quality books to children under the age of five. Book your child a ticket to the Imagination Library at a special kick off event, scheduled for Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ellinwood School/Community Library.

Families living within the Ellinwood zip code of 67526 are eligible to enroll their preschool children at the Kick Off and enjoy games, activities and treats. Families unable to attend the Kick Off may still register their children by stopping by the Ellinwood Library at their convenience.

Every child enrolled in the program will receive a free hardback book every month until their fifth birthday. Dolly Parton created her Imagination Library to guarantee access to books and to inspire parents to read to their children as much as possible. Educators emphasize that reading with your preschool child is the single most important activity to prepare a child for school.

The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was launched in 1996 for preschoolers in Sevier County, Tennessee, as a gift of encouragement for the children of her Smoky Mountain homeland. Several years ago, Dolly created a plan whereby communities could replicate the program.

Today, this program is made possible in Ellinwood because community leaders decided they wanted to bring the program to area preschool children. With sponsorships from The United Way of Central Kansas, CPI Barton County Endowment Committee and The Ellinwood Public Education and Library Foundation, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library will be available to children living in the Ellinwood zip code of 67526.

"The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a great opportunity. I am so impressed with the quality of books, and I know that children will be excited when they start receiving them in the mail," notes Sharon Sturgis, library director in Ellinwood.

Parents must register their children through the Ellinwood Library. Preschoolers currently living in the community may enter the program at any time and begin receiving an age-appropriate book every month until their fifth birthday. Families with preschool children who move into the community are eligible to register and become part of the program. Participating families who move out of the community’s zip code will exit the program at that time. If a family has more than one preschool age child, each child may participate and receive his/her own library.

A committee composed of individuals from education, child development, academia, and early childhood literacy selects the books for Dolly’s Imagination Library. The children’s classic "The Little Engine That Could" is the first book each child receives and "Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come" by Nancy Carlson is the final book in the collection. Each book is mailed, and addressed to the child.

An Ellinwood Chamber Coffee will be held at the Ellinwood School/Community Library on March 9 at 10 a.m. hosted by The United Way of Central Kansas, CPI Barton County Endowment Committee and the Ellinwood Public Education and Library Foundation. They will introduce this new program to the Ellinwood community.