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Program gives children in St. Joseph County free books

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Children in St. Joseph County can receive a brand new, free book through an early childhood literacy program that started Monday.

The Community Foundation of St. Joseph County brought Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the area. Imagination Library is a national organization that helps young kids learn how to read.

Any child aged zero to five who lives in St. Joseph County is eligible for the program. Books are picked by education and writing experts based on the child’s age. Past examples of free books include The Little Engine that Could and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Parents can register online at imaginationlibrary.com. A paper registration is also available at any library in St. Joseph County. Once a child is registered, he or she will receive the first book seven to nine weeks later in the mail.

There are benefits to early reading programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 26 percent of children who were read to three to four times a week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently. Additionally, 60 percent of children could count to 20 or higher compared to those who weren’t read to. Kids were more likely to write their own names and develop stronger reading skills.

To celebrate the start of Imagination Library, the Community Foundation is hosting two story times. The first is Monday, April 16 at 10:15 a.m. Rose Meissner, president of the Community Foundation, will read in the children’s room of the St. Joseph County Public Library at 304 S. Main St., South Bend.

 The second story time is Wednesday, April 18 at 11 a.m. Jeff Rea, with the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, will be the guest reader. That event will happen in the children’s area of the Mishawaka Public Library at 209 Lincolnway E., Mishawaka.   

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