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Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022

Give the Gift of Reading


Supporting childhood literacy changes lives, outcomes

According to the Louisiana Department of Education, 57% of children in Northwest Louisiana enter kindergarten below the kindergarten readiness threshold. This latest snapshot highlights a  long-standing literacy problem that plays a significant role in our state’s education achievement. As a result, illiteracy becomes the root of many of our societal problems, including poverty and crime.

The children of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families are especially affected when it comes to having a lack of books in their homes. ALICE represents the growing number of individuals and families who work hard but are still unable to afford their essential needs. Books are often viewed as a luxury when many other family necessities are going unmet.

At United Way of Northwest Louisiana, we believe success in life begins with quality education. And yet, millions of children lack the support they need to strengthen their reading skills. This makes it more likely for them to have low achievement throughout their school experience, struggle with low self-esteem, have an increase in-school discipline and low attendance, and increase their chances of dropping out of school and never starting a career.

We also believe it makes economic sense to invest in our children while they are young so they can have the social and developmental tools necessary for school and later in life. United Way’s investment in early childhood literacy starts with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Each month, we fund more than  5,000 new, age-appropriate books to be mailed to children’s homes at zero cost to the children’s families. Children can be enrolled in the program at birth and own a library of up to 60 books by the time they enter kindergarten.

Studies have shown that children enrolled in the Imagination Library score 15% higher on average than their peers on reading tests. When children are introduced to reading at a young age, they can better understand the grade-level text; they can make sense of what they see, hear and read; they can improve their cognitive and vocabulary development and they have an increased chance of graduating high school.

Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, which is why we want to give every child a chance at a brighter future. With the support of our community, we have made strides to close the gaps between children and access to books through the Imagination Library. However, while we are the largest provider of the Imagination Library in the state, every day, we must deny children, some from our most underserved areas, enrollment into the program due to funding.

Recently, we began offering the program in the 71103 zip code. According to the 2017 IRS tax return’s data, the most recent year for complete date, this zip code is the poorest in Louisiana. Today, we are asking you to help us in our efforts to expand the Imagination Library into more zip codes like 71103 and keep the program available where it’s currently offered by joining the United Way Book Club. A contribution of $50 has the power to sponsor a child in the program for one year.

We believe that a community filled with books is a community filled with opportunity and possibilities. Will you help us achieve our vision of ensuring there are books in every child’s home in our region?

LaToria W. Thomas is the president and CEO of United Way of Northwest Louisiana.

You can be a part of the United Way Book Club today by giving at one of the levels listed below before December 31. To show our gratitude, new book club members will receive a limited-edition bookmark. No other obligations for the book club are required.

Book Worms ($250 or less)

sponsors up to five children

Page Turners ($251 - $499)

sponsors five to nine children

Storytellers ($500 - $999)

sponsors 10 - 19 children

Novelists ($1,000 - $4,999)

sponsors 20 - 100 children

Please consider giving the gift of books this holiday season by joining the United Way Book Club or becoming a United Way Book Club Sponsor.

Learn more and give today by visiting https://unitedwaynwla.org/united-way-book-club/.


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