• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Human Rights Commission supports early literacy with launch of book program

The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission has launched an Imagination Library Book Program for children who may not otherwise have easy access to books in their homes, program coordinator Dan Brown said. By providing free books to these kids every month, they'll have opportunities to "love those books and read them 200 times like we did when we were growing up," said Brown, a retired elementary school teacher and literacy specialist for 28 years. With the support of donations from people in the community, children (from birth to 5 years old in Simmons Elementary School's attendance area) will receive a free book that will "belong to them forever" in their mailboxes each month, he said. "There are some other literacy supports for (these children)," said Brown. "We're just providing an additional layer of support for literacy..." "When kids love reading," he added, "a lot of good things happen" in other subject areas ... and "it sets them up for success." Simmons and its diverse student population made its neighborhoods a logical place to launch the Woodford County Imagination Library Book Program, according to Brown. "We hope to start with 150 children," he said. Tax-deductible donations already contributed to the literacy program will cover a little bit more than half the cost of reaching 150 children ($25 per child) so more donations are needed in order to reach that goal, Brown said. "We've got a good start," he said. If the group exceeds its goal, more than 150 children in the Simmons community will receive a free book each month, with hopes to expand the program to other Woodford County schools in the coming years, he said. Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Woodford County Imagination Library Book Program should contact Brown at dnlbrown174@gmail.com or 879-1046. Children should begin receiving their books by late-October or early-November, he said. Brown said he worked with the Family Resource Center at Simmons Elementary and the Woodford County Head Start preschool to reach out to families whose children will receive free books for the entire year through the Imagination Library Book Program. The early-literacy program was started in 1995 by country music singer Dolly Parton for young children living in her hometown in East Tennessee. Local programs in more than 1,600 communities across the United States, Canada and Great Britain now reach over a million children, according to Parton's Imagination Library website. The Imagination Library selects age-appropriate books, with one written in both Spanish and English chosen each year. "Some of the books are classics and some are new books, but they're all high-interest. And they are hardback books," said Brown, now in his second three-year term on the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission (HRC). Brown met with Woodford County schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins and Simmons Elementary Principal Tiffany Cook before HRC moved forward with starting the early-literacy program, which he said was supported by both. "It's another example of how supportive our community is (to the school district)," said Hawkins. He described sending a book to a child's home as an opportunity to encourage families to read together - even it's for only 10 minutes. "You're not only helping them get comfortable with a book in their hands," he said, "but you're building a vocabulary (in these children). They're starting to make connections because of the pictures ... in the book. So you're just doing lots of things to help with that early literacy. And if nothing else, you're building a library so kids have books at home. There's nothing wrong with reading a book more than once."

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