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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free books in Hillsborough County for kids



I’m all about giving my child every advantage she can possibly have, especially Mom_reading_2 if it’s free. A program for Hillsborough County children promises to help jumpstart my daughter’s vocabulary and reading skills by providing her with free books. That’s right: F-R-E-E.

The program, which is funded in part by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, United Way of Tampa Bay and the library, provides any child who lives in Hillsborough County and who was born after Sept. 1, 2006, with one free book a month until her fifth birthday.

The catch? There isn’t one. It took only five minutes to walk into a public library and sign up for the program, dubbed Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (yes, that Dolly Parton). Founded by Parton’s Dollywood Foundation, the program provides free books to children in 45 states regardless of a family’s income. Although the program is not new –- it started in Hillsborough County two years ago – few parents are taking advantage of it. So far, only 6,000 children have signed up for the program, a dismal showing given that an average of 18,000 children are born in Hillsborough County each year, library director Joe Stines said.

“We are still nowhere near even 50 percent, and we’d like to get that number higher,” Stines said. “The whole program is geared toward early literacy.”

To learn more, check out the St. Petersburg Times article. The Web-savvy among you can download an application at Mail or fax it in. In about two months, books should start arriving in your mailbox. First up? Dolly Parton’s favorite: "The Little Engine That Could".

-- Sherri Day

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:55am]


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