Governor Hogan announced that every child— from infancy to age five— in Baltimore City will be eligible to enroll, free of charge, in a new reading and book-delivery program starting in the New Year.
Named “Governor’s Young Readers,” the program is a replica of country star Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that mails a specifically selected, age-appropriate book each month to the homes of participating children. Maryland is the second state, after Tennessee, to adopt the Imagination Library program.
“I want children in Maryland to be excited about books and reading; and every single child should have access to books, regardless of their family’s circumstances,” said Governor Hogan. “Childhood books are incredibly important building blocks in a child’s education and I still remember my favorite one, The Little Engine That Could. My hope is that this program will foster a love of reading and learning, and help put these children on a path for lifelong success.”
Every month, each enrolled child will receive a new book specially chosen by a group of professionals in education, child development, and early childhood literacy. To help make this possible, the Governor’s Office for Children has partnered with Family League of Baltimore, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes resources, empowers communities, and builds the capacity of organizations to provide children and families with high-quality programs and services that help them reach their full potential.
The Family League will serve as the coordinating organization for the “Governor’s Young Readers” initiative. They will identify local partners to assist in promoting the program, help families sign up for the books, and lead the fundraising effort for the local portion of the program. Funding for the state’s portion of the program will be provided by the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
Dolly Parton and the Dollywood Foundation started Imagination Library in 1995 for the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Her goal was to encourage a love of reading among local preschool children and their families with the gift of a new book each month. By 2000, the program had become so popular that Parton announced she would make the program available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it.
Over 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to over 859,805 children in the United States alone. Statistics and independent reports have shown Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has dramatically improved early childhood literacy and reading scores for those enrolled.
Additional information about enrollment in the “Governor’s Young Readers” program will be available in January 2016 on the Family League of Baltimore’s website: www.familyleague.org.