OUR OPINION: How to help young readers in Grand Forks, East Grand Forks
Think about the theme of this story, which appeared in North Dakota news outlets a few days ago: "Two-thirds of North Dakota's children aren't proficient readers by the time they reach fourth grade, and the results are worse for the state's low-i...
Think about the theme of this story, which appeared in North Dakota news outlets a few days ago:
“Two-thirds of North Dakota’s children aren’t proficient readers by the time they reach fourth grade, and the results are worse for the state’s low-income students.”
Now, suppose there was a way to start to counter that theme …
With this one:
“The findings suggest participation in the program is positively and significantly associated with higher measures of early language and math development.”
Or this one:
“Results indicated that greater exposure to the program was associated with more frequent child-directed reading and discussion of the story. These results persisted when controlling for the effects of child age, gender, family income, parental education, race, parental nation of birth, and primary language.”
Or this one:
“By all accounts, the data suggests that participation has made a dramatic difference in the frequency of reading to children in the families receiving the books.”
There might just be a way, because the summaries above describe studies of the Imagination Library program. Started by entertainer Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library is a program that sends a free and age-appropriate book each month to any child from birth to age 5 whose family wants one.
The Grand Forks area has an Imagination Library program, says Pat Berger, president of the United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area.
And it needs residents’ support, which people can offer by donating to the United Way.
The Imagination Library serves some 1,700 children in Grand Forks County and in East Grand Forks, all of whom will be getting a book in February, Berger said.
The goal is to reach 2,000 children by the end of the year. In Grand Forks alone, the Grand Forks School District estimates that there are about 4,500 youngsters in the birth-to-5 age group, so 2,000 would be about 44 percent of those.
Here’s how the Imagination Library works:
First, residents sign up with the United Way and promise to read to their child.
Then, “eight to 10 weeks after your registration form has been received, books will begin arriving at your home and will continue until your child turns 5 or you move out of Grand Forks County or the city of East Grand Forks,” the program’s website notes.
And that’s it. There are no income restrictions, nor do families have to pay to take part.
Instead, the United Way pays, in partnership with Altru Health System and the Grand Forks Foundation for Education. But thanks to Dolly Parton’s foundation, the cost is a bargain: Only $30 a year per child, which pays for the purchase and mailing of 12 books.
The United Way has budgeted $53,000 for this year’s Imagination Library program. The fundraising has about $20,000 to $25,000 to go.
“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true,” Parton says on the Imagination Library’s website.
“I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. … Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.
“The seeds of these dreams are often found in books, and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”
Contact the United Way office in Grand Forks to help.