Following its expansion as a statewide program last June, the Imagination Library of Washington recognized Lewis County as having the highest enrollment rate percentage of eligible children in the program started by country music star Dolly Parton.
Parton, inspired by her father’s illiteracy, conceived the program in her home state of Tennessee in 1995 to provide high quality, age-appropriate books for children up to 5 years old at no cost to the family.
United Way of Lewis County partnered with the Lewis County Rotary Foundation to start the Imagination Library in the county and has been running the program since 2019.
As of last December, 2,624 children in Lewis County were enrolled in the program, representing 57% of eligible children in the county.
According to a United Way of Lewis County news release, that was the highest percentage of any of the 31 counties enrolled in the Imagination Library of Washington.
Washington was the 11th state to join the program when Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2068 into law on June 9, 2022, which allowed the program to be established statewide. The bill was put forth by state Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia.
Since being created, over $200,000 has been raised locally to fund both the books and shipping expenses to get them to the children. It costs around $25 for one child to receive a year’s worth of books.
“Getting books into the hands of our early learners not only fosters a love for reading, but it sets our children up for a truly successful educational journey,” said Christian Bruhn, executive director for United Way of Lewis County.
Because of the recognition, Lewis County is receiving an extra $500 from the Imagination Library of Washington to aid in expanding the program even further.
“We are so inspired by the results and reach achieved with the children and families in Lewis County,” said Brooke Fisher-Clark, executive director of the Imagination Library of Washington.
As of last June, there were around 26,000 children enrolled statewide, with the program hoping to enroll 150,000 by June 2023, according to previous Chronicle reporting.
Since Parton originally created the program in 1995, it has given away over 182 million books to children in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Any child under 5 years old can receive one free book a month from the Imagination Library. To learn more about the program and register in Lewis County, visit https://www.lewiscountyuw.com/dolly-partons-imagination-library.