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Imagination Library offers a head start for kids posted on 03/01/2020

Since the Oregon Trail School District (OTSD) joined Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in 2013, 452 children have enjoyed a free book every month until they turn five, according to Pat Sanders, who coordinates it in the district. Globally, the program has given away more than 100 million books, with operations in the United Kingdom, Australia and beyond.

“We’ve done really well,” Sanders said of the local effort. “We could still do more. (There’s) a whole group of children that hasn’t been reached.”

The program is free and families can sign up children who are under the age of five through the OTSD website, oregontrailschools.com (under the “Families” tab, located in the upper right). Every month, a free book gets mailed to the child, ranging from picture books to the traditional last book for a child’s fifth birthday, “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come,” by Nancy Carlson.

Sanders, who served as the principal at Kelso Elementary School in Boring and has had three of his own grandchildren take part in the program, noted that children who are exposed to books before kindergarten arrive at school with skills and abilities that will help them get a jump on their education, including identifying sight words, phonics and even knowing how to properly hold a book and recognize where the title is.

“When they get to kindergarten, they definitely have an advantage over kids who don’t have books available,” Sanders said.

He added that numbers in the OTSD have gone up and down through the years, with 162 children currently involved. One of the more recent books, Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snow Day,” proved to be an appropriate one for his grandson, who was getting ready to go up and enjoy some snow on the Mountain.

The Imagination Library is sponsored by the Oregon Trail Education Foundation (OTEF) and can also be supported by area residents by signing up for the Fred Meyer Community Rewards program and AmazonSmile.

All funds contributed through Community Rewards and Amazon Smile go directly to the Imagination Library program. OTEF is a private, independent, voluntary organization that supports students, teachers and families of the Oregon Trail School District.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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