Introduce children to books and you give them the entire world and beyond — their imagination is their ticket.
Both the Payson Public Library and the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Gila County Library District’s programs promoting early literacy.
With the Parton program, families with infants and children up to age 5 can get a carefully selected, free book mailed to their child (children) every month. It is addressed to the child participant — it is their very own book. They learn how to handle books and with their parents, grandparents and/or caregivers reading to them from those books, they learn skills that make them ready for kindergarten and ready to succeed.
“I know there are three-year-olds who know when their book is supposed to arrive,” said Jacque Griffin, county librarian.
The program is now in its third year and has 1,100 children participating, Griffin said. However, only about 45 percent of children eligible for the program in the Payson area are registered for it, according to the U.S. Census and county records, Griffin said.
The “training” for parents, grandparents and/or caregivers takes all of 10 minutes she said.
All that is required to participate is to be a resident of Gila County and sign-up for the program. The registration forms are available at all libraries and through the WIC program of the Gila County Health Department. Books will begin arriving at the address on the registration form in eight to 10 weeks.
Participation in the program helps make a well-prepared kindergartner, Griffin said. It builds vocabulary and cognitive skills.
“Nationally, most children going into kindergarten have a 3,000 word vocabulary. Studies and informal observations show Gila County’s new kindergartners have only a 500-word vocabulary,” Griffin said.
She said two longtime kindergarten teachers have told her that since the program has been in place, almost all the children in their classes now know how to handle books.
Children are far more apt to read books if books are available — in many homes they are not; this program changes that, Griffin said.
“We hope the program encourages parents to bring children to the library, but program participants never have to come to the library. We want to see every child in Gila County know how to read and have the literacy skills to be successful,” she said.