For the students at MS Bailey Child Development Center in Clinton, Halloween was all treats and no tricks.
Because on that day, they became eligible for, at no cost to their families, a free book in the mail each month from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
Last Tuesday was the official kickoff for MS Bailey as the District 56 site for the Imagination Library, a program that already has distributed more than 10,000 books in neighboring District 55 and 2 Million books nationwide. The importance of reading was stressed by speakers during a brief presentation followed by a ribbon-cutting.
“If you can read it, you can be it,” Laurens State Representative Stewart Jones told the assembled students, who participated in a “Wheels on the Bus” sing-along as the program got underway.
“We are behind you 100 percent,” Jones said. “We are so proud of you.”
“What you are doing is very, very important. You are learning. The more that you read and learn, the more you will love reading. It makes you smart and to be smart is really cool. You can be anything you want to be and, (MS Bailey) staff, thank you for what you do here; and I hope you get lots of candy for Halloween.”
The children were encouraged to have their parents or guardians sign them up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which mails free books to children from birth to 5 years of age, a total of 58 high quality, kids-friendly books.
“You know how much fun it is here (at school); what makes it more fun is reading,” District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said. “Reading is so, so, so important. It’s no longer an imagination - it is here.”
Dolly Parton Imagination Library is coming to District 56 through the efforts of Laurens County First Steps. Its executive director, Toni Able, credited Gwen Cook for being a persistent advocate for the program. The cost to sponsor a child is $127.60 and the local First Steps program’s cost for the program is $16,865. Able said they hope to recruit additional community sponsors.
“How can anybody say no to mailing quality books for a child?” she said.
The initial 275 children are enrolled in the District 56 program and the first mailing went out in October. As part of the Halloween festivities at MS Bailey Child Development Center, each child took home a book from the Toys for Tots book drive.