10 percent of the people in Aroostook County are illiterate. That’s according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The county has the second HIGHEST illiteracy rate in Maine. Shawn Cunningham reports on how a group of concerned citizens led by a country music star might be turning those stats around for the next generation…one child and one book at a time.
Its story time at ACAP’s Head Start Program in Presque Isle. Miss Jackie is reading to Saimi (summy) and all the other toddlers gathered around. Its an important time of day. And getting these youngsters to like reading before they turn age 5 is just as important. Its the goal of these county volunteers for the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every month, the program puts a free book in the hands of kids from birth to aged 5.
Dan Bagley is the Chair of Dolly’s Imagination Library Committee in Aroostook County and says “The ability to read leads to the ability to be successful in life.. This project will help improve everything from graduation rates, crime rates, poverty rates and who doesn’t want a free book in their home.”
“People want this for their children they’re signing up we have not had to spend a lot of time trying to get the message out there that this is available,” adds Claudia Stevens, the Executive Director of the United Way of Aroostook.
The organization had a big county kickoff and family signup day last fall. Stevens says close to fifteen hundred kids are now getting books. But the program is growing. Bagley says it’ll take more funding to fill the need, so FUNDRAISING has become a necessity.
Stevens says “The cost for this project has risen exponentially and we’re trying to keep up with it we’re committed to keeping up with it.”
Enter good samaritan service groups like the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club that committed to donating five thousand dollars…a thousand dollars annually over the next five years. Bagley says the committee appreciates the club’s generosity and is open to other groups willing to do the same…and INVEST in the education of county youngsters.
“There is about 3,500 families with young children in Aroostook County, we hope to get to the point where at least 70 percent of those kids are receiving the books.”
Anyone wanting more information about the Dolly’s Imagination Library can log onto the United Way of Aroostook website at www.unitedwayofaroostook.org.