In 2012, United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore (UWLES) began their partnership with the Dolly Parton Foundation to offer the Imagination Library™ program, a service that provides any local child the opportunity to receive one free book a month delivered by mail to their home, from birth until their fifth birthday. To date, over 9,000 local children have participated in the program.
Being engaged with books from an early age is critical for preparing children for kindergarten. School systems from all four Lower Shore counties (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester) partner with UWLES to track the program's impact through analyzing Kindergarten Readiness Assessment data. Each year across the Lower Shore, children participating in Imagination Library perform higher and demonstrate stronger readiness for kindergarten. “This program has proven to be an effective way for children in our community to have access to books at home, which for many families is a barrier. Books not only help little ones learn to read, but by doing so they build additional critical thinking and social development skills needed for successful learning in school,” shared Pam Gregory, UWLES President/CEO. “The books are age appropriate and many have reading guides to help adults share the story in fun and engaging ways to help highlight the developmental themes,” Gregory added.
Children ‘graduate’ the program as they turn five, honoring their next step to school entry with the final book “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by Nancy Carlson. September marks a very special occasion for UWLES with the 5,000th Imagination Library graduate: O’maji Dawson from Cambridge, Maryland. To celebrate this milestone, UWLES will be meeting with Dawson and his mother Shanina Legette at Sandy Hill Elementary School on August 25th, where Dawson will be starting Kindergarten this fall, to present him with a special package of books and back to school supplies.
UWLES has distributed over 242,000 books across the Lower Shore since the program’s launch. This would not have been possible without significant community support and funding partners including: The Donnie Williams Foundation, PNC Bank, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Richard A. Henson Foundation, Risk Placement Services (RPS) & Gallagher Co., Gateway Pediatrics, Elks Club 817, M&T Bank, Bank of America, Cambridge Rotary Club, Ocean City-Berlin Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Wicomico, The Salisbury Rotary, Optimist Club of Salisbury, the Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines/Ocean City and other community organizations.
For just $26, anyone can sponsor a full year of books for one child. For more information about how to sponsor or register a child to participate, visit www.uwles.org/imaginationlibrary.