United Way of Susquehanna County Launches ‘Imagination Library’

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April 7, 2016

Press Release

Submitted by: Kim Merithew
Director of Corporate and Community Giving
United Way of Susquehanna County
Contact: 570-465-3868
Location:693 Main St
New Milford, PA 18834

United Way of Susquehanna County Launches ‘Imagination Library’

Susquehanna, PA (April 7, 2016) – United Way of Susquehanna County (UWSC) today announced its partnership and the launch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Susquehanna County. This game-changing initiative will provide a FREE, high-quality, age-appropriate book each month to all children enrolled in the program. It is designed to dramatically increase literacy rates and is open to all children in Susquehanna County under the age of five, regardless of household income.

The need for the program is such that findings of a recent study prepared by The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development indicated 81% of children in Susquehanna County under age five are living in economically at-risk families and are at moderate risk of school failure.“The Imagination Library has the potential to rewrite our community’s story,” said Kim Merithew, Director of Corporate and Community Giving of United Way of Susquehanna County. “It has achieved spectacular results in communities around the world. We couldn’t be more excited to bring this initiative to Susquehanna County.”

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new direction and change in mission for the United Way of Susquehanna County, said Tammy Bonnice, Advisory Committee Chairman. Moving forward, UWSC is investing generous donor dollars towards programs that “Help Children Do Well” specifically programs that emphasis academic readiness, mentorship, childhood wellness and family stability and can effectively measure outcomes.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was created by recording artist Dolly Parton in 1996 to ensure that every child would have access to quality books, regardless of income. It currently provides books to nearly 900,000 children in almost 2,000 local communities across three countries.

Once children are registered for the Imagination Library age-appropriate books, selected by a blue ribbon panel of experts, are mailed in a child’s name to his/her home each month from the time of birth until the child turns five years of age.The books are the child’s to keep.

While the program is open to all children under age 5, there is a significant cost to operate it; therefore, the greatest focus will be on enrolling families who have limited access to resources like new books.

Southwestern Energy (SWN) was the first to invest in this initiative. Mike Narcavage, Community Relations Manager, said this, “At Southwestern Energy, we understand the vital role reading serves in a child’s overall educational success. That is why we are excited to work with UWSC, to provide young families in Susquehanna County with a resource to build their own libraries at home, and introduce a new generation to all of the joy and wonder that reading can provide. I urge the community to support this important initiative.”

Tonianne Smith from Springville and her daughter Zoie Donahue, who just celebrated her 2nd birthday on March 23rd, was the first to enroll in the program. Tonianne said she is grateful to have Zoie enrolled in this program to help instill the love and importance of reading to her daughter.

“Reading to young children is the most effective way to increase their intellectual capacity and the results affect their entire lives,” said Cindy Page, RN., Maternal and Family Health Services- Nurse-Family Partnership program. “Children’s brains develop most rapidly between birth and age five. This is when we can lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and foster the desire and readiness to learn that result in long term success. It is vital that children are proficient at reading by third grade if we want to prevent them from falling behind and staying behind for the rest of their lives.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library will help children with educational achievement as measured by standardized tests and will help families by encouraging one-on-one time and reading in the home.

The Imagination Library has produced remarkable results in other communities. Nearly 75% of families involved in it read more to their children after joining the program.
Susan Stone, Administrator/Librarian, Susquehanna County Historical and Free Library Association, agrees that by introducing books at an early age, children have a greater propensity for academic success. Stone expressed her optimism that these little readers and their families will grow up to be lifelong patrons of the library and access the plethora of services available to the community to help enrich lives.

This roll out coincides with the annual celebration of the Week of Young Child™ (April 11-16) sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children which focuses attention on needs of young children and their families and recognizes early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.

The Imagination Library is open to all children in Susquehanna County under the age of five. To sign up, parents or caregivers need only to submit an official registration form to United Way of Susquehanna County. Forms are available by contacting United Way of Susquehanna County at 570-465-3868 and are also available online at www.unitedwayofsusquehannacounty.org.

Additionally, United Way of Susquehanna County will be holding a special fundraiser in fall 2016 with details to follow. Individuals and businesses who would like to make a donation or learn more about fundraising sponsorship opportunities can contact UWSC at 570-465-3868.

About United Way of Susquehanna County:
United Way of Susquehanna County is a champion of “Helping Children Do Well”. United Way focuses on the building blocks for a good life: Education, Income and Health. Additional information about United Way of Susquehanna County and its programs and initiatives can be found at www.unitedwayofsusquehannacounty.org.

Pictured from left to right:
back row-Cindy Page, Susan Stone, front row, Kim Smith-NBT Bank- Susquehanna Market Manager, AVP and UWSC Campaign Chair, Zoie Donahue and Tonianne Smith. Photo courtesy of Robin Cobb