One of the most important things a parent can do is to instill a love of reading in their children. Stories with a rich vocabulary can stimulate the imagination and understanding of our world. This was something that Dolly Parton understood when she began the Imagination Library. She writes:
“Hi everybody. This is Dolly.
“Before he passed away, my Daddy told me the Imagination Library was probably the most important thing I had ever done. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me because I created the Imagination Library as a tribute to my Daddy. He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all of his dreams.
“Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission. In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children.
“Of course, I have not done this alone. The real heroes of our story are the thousands of local organizations who have embraced my dream and made it their own. They raise millions of dollars each year and wake up every day with a passion to make sure their kids have every opportunity to succeed.
“It’s been quite a journey but we have so much more left to do. I would love for your community to join our family so please take the time to explore our website. Let’s share this dream that all children should grow up in a home full of books.
“The first step is always the hardest, but you’ll never know unless you try…
And how does this relate to Wawa?
Cathy Cannon was inspired by her grandson’s membership in this program. She had gone with him to check the mail, and he received a book that day. She questioned her daughter about why he was getting books in the mail. “I thought it was a wonderful program. My grandson looked forward to checking the mail for his free book every month. He would get his parents to read the new book as soon as it came. It encourages them to read, it gets them ready for school. It is just nice that the parents spend the time – and the kids really enjoy them.”
She inquired further, and discovered that in order to bring it to Wawa – she needed a “Local Champion”. With all her information she approached the Rotary Club of Wawa with a presentation, and they agreed to support it. Russell Reid of the Rotary Club of Wawa explained that “Literacy” is one of their six areas of focus:
- Peace and conflict prevention/resolution,
- Disease prevention and treatment,
- Water and sanitation,
- Maternal and child health,
- Basic education and literacy, and
- Economic and community development
“It fit, it was extremely well received by the club members, went to the board of directors with a letter from Cathy to be approved and budgeted for.” Russell explained, “it made perfect sense – Rotary does a lot in this community, SCC, schools – this is a perfect chance to bring it to the beginning; 0 – 5. Looking at the booklist, there is some good Candian content there.”
To make the program a success, the Imagination Library negotiates wholesale pricing for the books, and Wawa’s Local Champion, the Rotary Club of Wawa is responsible for securing funds to cover that cost and shipping. That means that enrolled children will receive a free book monthly from birth until age 5.
The first book a child will receive is “The Little Engine That Could™” (customized version). The month a child turns five, they will receive “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” (customized version). Children born in 2018 received: Winnie-the-Pooh Opposites, Sassy: Bedtime for Baby, Wheels on the Bus, Little Gardener, My First Songs, + Sometimes We Think, You Are a Monkey, Where’s Ellie, I Love You, Spot, + Same Same, Look Look!, and + Checkers and Dot at the Zoo. Children in the last group (5 yeas old) received until their birthday month: Last Stop on Market Street, Tale of Peter Rabbit, + The Boy in Number 4, + Mo’s Mustache, Hooray, a Piñata, Tarra & Bella, * + Colette’s Lost Pet, * + When the Moon Comes, + Ella May & the Wishing Stone, Violet the Pilot, and Fly Butterfly
* Signifies a new book to the program
+ Signifies a title published by Penguin Random House Canada, Canadian Content or Canadian Author/Illustrator’s book
Cathy explained, “I think every child can benefit from this program. I believe in this program.”
The Wawa Imagination Library Program will begin in January of 2019. The Program Launch will be at the By-Hands Festival. If you have a child between birth and 5, visit the booth and register your child. There are potentially 140 children in the Wawa area that could participate in this free program and possibly receive 60 books from 0 to 5, and the organizers would love to see all of them join. Register at the booth, and the first week of January will see your child’s first book arrive!