When a child in her preschool brings in a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to show her, Julie Hanlin smiles.
“It’s so rewarding,” she said.
Hanlin is director of early childhood education at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, where she runs a preschool for children up to five-years-old. They also have summer camps for children.
When she heard about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Hanlin knew she wanted St. Paul’s to be involved. The program, which the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation launched in Cedar Rapids in 2018, mails one free book a month to children ages 0-5 in Cedar Rapids. It is open to all residents.
“It just made sense that we offered that for our families,” Hanlin said. “It really gets the kids excited about reading. There are just so many benefits to introducing books to children. It sets a good foundation for them, and I hope it cultivates a lifelong love of reading,”
The program has a goal of enrolling 80% of 0-5-year-olds in Cedar Rapids. To reach that number, the Foundation works with enrollment partners – organizations who regularly interact with parents of young children – to help get them signed up.
Partners like the YPN, HACAP, and Eastern Iowa Health Center have been instrumental in registering children. However, there is room for growth. Over the last year, enrollment has hovered around 65% of eligible children, and Foundation Executive Director Charity Tyler is looking for ways to reach more families. To do that, she’s hoping to bring area preschools on board as partners.
“We have good coverage with our non- profit enrollment partners. What we’re missing is in-home and public daycare providers,” she said.
Hanlin said being a preschool enrollment partner is straightforward. They include the enrollment form for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library as part of their annual open house, with an option for families to mail it in themselves or bring it back for St. Paul’s to return for them. She will also offer to help families fill out the paperwork.
She said the most common reaction she gets from parents is that they didn’t know the program existed, followed by excitement they can be part of it. That reaction shows the importance of enrollment partners in getting kids signed up – they are trusted institutions, meeting families where they are.
“It really is simple that getting books in front of children is key for academic success and literacy,” Hanlin said. “Love of books, creativity, learning – the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library fosters all of that.”
Learn more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and find a registration form at CRLibrary.org/imagination-library.
Daycare providers or other organizations interested in becoming an enrollment partner may email Foundation@CRLibrary.org.
This article is from the fall issue of OPEN+ magazine. Find the magazine at the Downtown and Ladd Libraries and Metro area Hy-Vees, or read the online version at https://fliphtml5.com/homepage/rofy