Dolly Parton Imagination Library ready to launch

A Prince Albert group is ready to get free books into the hands of pre-school children.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library Prince Albert announced Thursday that they would be going live on March 1.

The program gifts a free book to registered children each month through the mail, free of charge. Children receive books from birth to age five.

“Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Canada is a free book gifting program devoted to inspiring a love of reading in the hearts of children everywhere,” the group said in a press release.

While work to establish the library has been ongoing for about a year, fundraising has been ongoing in earnest for the past few months.  So far, 90 children have registered, and the first books are set to arrive within four to eight weeks. Registrations can be done online via the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Canada or through the Prince Albert chapter’s Facebook page. Forms can also be found at the Prince Albert Literacy Network Office. Currently, the program covers the city only and not the surrounding area.

“We’re super excited to finally get it launched,” said Kurtis Hamel, a high school teacher who helped spearhead the local project.

“Literacy is the foundational building block for everything else in school. If you can’t read and comprehend, you’re not going to be able to do well in any of your other subjects. It’s really important to have a strong literacy background early in life. That’s why this program is so important, because it gets books into the hands of kids before they even go into school.”

So far, the program has received support from a SARCAN fundraiser, individual donors and community organizations.

In a press release, the library thanked a city councillor for donating and the Optimist Club of Prince Albert, which sponsored the first 282 books.

The library, though, is still fundraising. They said that with 2,570 children under the age of 5 in Prince Albert, if just half sign up it will cost about $60,000 annually.

“To make this program a success and reach all the eligible children in Prince Albert, we need support on an ongoing basis from the whole community, including our local businesses,” the library said.

‘We call on all of our elected officials, at all three levels of government to make a personal donation to this important program, and have asked all of them individually to do so.”

Hamel said they have enough funding support to launch, but that he expects the program to gain in popularity.

“We’ve had a lot of support — lots of people liking and commenting and asking questions and finding out where they can register,” he said.

“I think the buzz is out there. Parents who are familiar with the program are eager to get their kids and other family members signed up. For some people, it’s new and they haven’t heard of it before, but when they realize they can sign their kids up for free books, that’s always exciting for parents and their kids as well.”

While Hamel said improving literacy in the city is a reason he wanted to start up this project, he had a more personal reason too.

“I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan,” he said.

“It was always something that I thought about wanting to get started here, not just because it’s a great literacy program, but also it’s a way to bring Dolly Parton to Prince Albert. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. I was grateful I was able to get support … and we were able to get it going.”

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