CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones today announced a plan to send books home to every Illinois child, regardless of income. Teaming up with the Dollywood Foundation of Tennessee and the Illinois Hospital Association, the collaborative effort is designed to improve statewide literacy. Governor Blagojevich and Senate President Jones made the announcement at the Salem Baptist Church, on Chicago’s south side.
“Illinois will become the first state in the nation to offer every child a personal library,” said Governor Blagojevich. “That’s exactly the kind of commitment children deserve.”
The initiative, called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Libraries, will send, free of charge, 12 age-appropriate books to every child in the state, ages 0-5. Parents will receive the first book at the hospital. At that time, they will register to receive books in the mail, for each month throughout the year. Parents can choose books from a list provided through a National Book Selection Committee, which includes such popular titles as Peek-a-Boo Moon, The Snowy Day, Whistle for Whistle, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come, The Gingerbread Boy and more. After five years, children will have 60 books in their personal libraries. Children will also receive a dictionary and books will be available in multiple languages.
“Reading is the foundation for success. Currently only 60 percent of students in Illinois are performing at grade level,” President Jones said. “With this program, this opportunity, we intend to dramatically increase that number. This will be a program that will benefit both the parent and the child.”
Developing literacy skills through early experiences with books and stories is critically linked to a child’s success in learning to read. Studies indicate 25% of young adults lack the basic literacy skills required in a typical job. The Imagination Libraries program encourages parents to read to their children. In places where the program is already implemented, 85% of participants say they read to their children everyday.
“Studies show reading to children is the greatest factor in helping them learn to read at an early age,” Governor Blagojevich said. “When I was young my mother read to me. Every child should have that same opportunity.”
The Imagination Libraries program does not require legislation. It’s anticipated, if every single Illinois child participates, the program will cost $26 million in FY 2005.
Governor Blagojevich will further explain Imagination Libraries and other bold education initiatives during his State of the State address at the State Capitol on Thursday, January 15, at 12 noon.