Sign up today: HI Rotary brings Imagination Library to eastern Carroll County

Thursday, August 1, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com

The Holiday Island Rotary Club has expanded its Imagination Library program to Berryville and Green Forest.

Through the program, Rotarian Peggy Lodewyks said, children are mailed a free age-appropriate book from birth to age 5. She said the program began in late 2017 in Holiday Island and Eureka Springs and has only grown since then. Today, she said, the program has expanded to offer free books to children in Berryville and Green Forest.

Preschool teachers have helped sign kids up for the program, Lodewyks said, and 495 local children are receiving books. More than 50 children were registered for the program but aged out, Lodewyks said. Each child receives a welcome book upon registration and a graduation book when they turn 5, she said.

"Parents say the kids are so excited to receive their mail. They want to read the took right away," Lodewyks said. "A side benefit, we're finding out, is the kids will ask anyone who walks in the house to read to them. They're bonding over that."

She continued, "We're finding adults who don't read as often are picking it up with them. If the children don't get a book that week, they want to go to the library. This is helping libraries. This is helping everybody."

The program is definitely making a difference in the community, Lodewyks said.

"Teachers tell us they can tell right away if a child has been read to," she said. "They have so much more discipline, focus and enthusiasm. This makes it easier for teachers."

Learning to read early is important for childhood development, Lodewyks said. If their parents read to them regularly, Lodewyks said, they become more curious about reading themselves.

"Then they start making up their own stories and they start looking at the grocery store and saying, 'I know that name,' " Lodewyks said. "They'll pick up a newspaper and read it. If you can learn to read, you can read to learn."

The best thing about the program, Lodewyks said, is how varied the books are.

"There's not anyone that doesn't read unless they find a book they like," she said. "This opens up a broad range of books for a child, so they can see what their career might be or what their interests might be. They can find a new hobby."

When the children start school, Lodewyks said, they are more likely to have better test scores.

"They will get better grades, they'll like school, they'll get a better job and they'll stay in college," she said. "We'll have more artists and musicians because of the discipline and learning to read early."

Reading creates curious, self-sufficient children who become successful adults, Lodewyks said.

"I think more companies will come into Carroll County if we have a stronger workforce, and this is what we're trying to do," she said. "If you get more children reading, you might have startups from these children so they aren't stuck with the options in Carroll County. They can make a new opportunity here, and they won't leave."

It costs $25 to provide books for one child for a year, Lodewyks said. She said Rotary spends $12,000 a year on the program, saying that number would increase with the number of enrolled students. The club always accepts donations to the program, she said.

"We want to be prepared to be able to never turn a child down because we lack funds," Lodewyks said. "It's less than $2 a month for a child, and they will get these age-appropriate books until they are 5."

To sign up for the program, fill out a form at Loaves & Fishes or Flint Street Fellowship, visit www.ImaginationLibrary.com or call Lodewyks at 479-244-9595.

"As soon as you do that, the child gets the book the very next month," Lodewyks said. "We want to make it easy for the parents."

You can mail donations to the Holiday Island Rotary Foundation at P.O. Box 3204 in Holiday Island.

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