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The power of Imagination Library

June 30, 2012
Ruth Ascher - United Way of SW?Minnesota Executive Director , Marshall Independent

During June, somewhere in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine or western Redwood counties, a child received the 175,000th book delivered through the United Way of Southwest Minnesota partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

That child is one of 2,344 children currently receiving books each month through this partnership and one of thousands more preschoolers who have received books since the beginning of the partnership in August 2005.

With United Way of Southwest Minnesota sponsorship, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library mails one book each month to children, ages 0-5, living in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and western Redwood Counties whose parents register to receive them. These sturdy, colorful, age appropriate books are delivered directly to the child. Each book is selected for the developmental benefits it brings - and for the fun. There is no cost to the family.

"United Way of Southwest Minnesota is committed to supporting learning and development and a sense of belonging for children and youth so that they become responsible and contributing adults," says United Way Executive Director Ruth Ascher. "We want to ensure children have positive developmental opportunities so that they can start school ready to succeed. We want to grow success in learning and in life."

The Imagination Library is an important element of United Way's goals for early childhood education.

Research indicates the Imagination Library improves school readiness and household literacy habits. For example, a large-scale 2007 research project in Tennessee concluded enrollment improves school readiness not only in reading skills, but also in speaking, thinking and social skills.

Research conducted in 2010 by United Way showed improvements in household literacy habits resulting in increased time spent reading with children; making children more interested in books and making parents more comfortable reading to children; and, increasing parent awareness of their children's reading levels.

Enrollment information can be found on the United Way of Southwest Minnesota webpage, All books are paid for by United Way of Southwest Minnesota through donations to their annual campaign from local individuals, employee groups, businesses and service organizations. Donations for the program can be sent at any time to United Way at PO Box 41, Marshall, MN 56258.

Books that cannot be delivered by the Post Office because a family has moved are reused in several different ways to benefit young children. United Way collects these books from Post Offices in the area. Many books are given to area early childhood programs, schools or to day care providers.

Several speech and occupational therapists have developed therapy curriculum based upon themes of many of these books and have put them into use to build learning that way.

United Way of Southwest Minnesota is an autonomous, local organization working for 50 years to create lasting changes in people's lives and the communities in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and western Redwood counties of Minnesota.



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