Free kids books are back: Imagination Library program restarts in Stark County

Jessina Kary said she wasn’t sure what had happened when her son, Isaac, stopped receiving his monthly book through the mail from the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

She wondered if there had been a mixup in her address after her family had moved. It wasn’t until later that Kary and hundreds of others learned the program had lost its funding in Dickinson, leaving nearly 600 children ages 5 and under without the free book they’d come to expect and enjoy every month.

“He loved it,” Kary said of 4-year-old Isaac. “The first book he ever got was ‘Little Engine That Could’ and we still love that one because he still loves trains.”

Soon, Isaac Kary and kids across Stark County will start receiving their Imagination Library books again.

North Dakota First Lady Betsy Dalrymple helped announce the restart of the program Monday morning at the Dickinson Area Public Library and later read “Roar of a Snore” to a group of children.

“There’s nothing better that a community can do than to help give a gift to your children once a month,” Dalrymple said.

The Imagination Library program was brought back in large part because of a donation of $16,000 by WPX Energy, an oil and gas exploration company with a large stake in the Bakken. Their donation allows children in all Stark County cities except Belfield, which has its own Imagination Library program, the opportunity to sign up for the Imagination Library.

“I really want to tip my hat to them (WPX) for underlining the difference that this program can make in the lives of children,” Dalrymple said.

Imagination Library was launched in 1995 by Dolly Parton, a country music legend and actress, to benefit children ages 5 and under in her home state of Tennessee. It has since expanded to every state, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Each month, children receive an age-appropriate book through the mail.

When Dickinson’s Imagination Library lost its funding, several interested parents and educators formed a committee to bring it back. With Dalrymple’s help and support from WPX, the program relaunched in April.

“There’s such a great need for this, so I’m glad we were able to get a committee together and get this going again,” said Lane Talkington, Dickinson’s children’s services librarian

Nearly 1,400 children in Stark County are eligible for the program, and the committee hopes to get every one of them signed up.

Chelsey Scherr, representing the Badlands Reading Council, works for the K.I.D.S. Program in Dickinson and said she sees the difference in children who are read to early and often in a world full of screens.

“What they really need is a parent who gets on the floor, plays with them and reads to them,” Scherr said.

Erica Crespo, part of the committee to help restart the Imagination Library in Stark County, held her 1-year-old son Vaile as they listed to Dalrymple and others speak.

She said she was disappointed when the program lost its funding around the time Vaile was born. Now that it’s back, they are signed up and awaiting his first book.

“It’s just an awesome program to promote literacy in our community,” Crespo said. “So many parents don’t know about this program.”


Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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