Today my son Liam turns five. This really is a birthday to celebrate as he begins his final year of preschool. He is growing and changing, while still keeping his love of cooking, crafts, and his “doggy”.
This birthday also marks the end of Liam’s excited trips from the mailbox each month for a new book. We were fortunate enough to be a part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program through the Danville United Way for the last three years. In keeping with Dolly’s giving nature and inspired by her hard-working father’s inability to read and write, Dolly Parton began this program in her home county of Sevierville , Tennessee, twenty years ago. In 2000 she launched the program to partner with any community who would also contribute to a portion of the cost of the books. Over 1,000,000 children each month in 1600 local communities receive books from birth to age five.
According to research compiled in Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, books make all the difference in early childhood education. “Children with parents who are barely literate do as well in school as children whose parents have university degrees if the homes have 500 or more books for children.” Needless to say, I immediately went into my kids’ rooms and started counting the books on the shelves. They go on to say that children who grow up with books are about three years ahead academically than children who grow up with no books (133).
Beyond the tangible hold on literacy, these books bring happiness, laughter, imagination, and a sense of belonging. The Imagination Library books come with guided questions for further exploration for parents unsure of what to do with a child’s story besides just read it.
With a mix of well-known stories and new works, there have been many wonderful titles delivered to us over the past years. Here are some of Liam’s favorites which would be wonderful additions to any home library. OK…full disclosure…these are my favorites too.
Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border
This delightful story has the main character, Peanut Butter, just looking for someone to play soccer with as he tries (unsuccessfully) to make friends with meatball, cupcake, and alphabet soup to name a few. He doesn’t luck up until he meets, you guessed it, Jelly. Border is the creator of “Bent Objects” and uses these as illustrations throughout the book. He is a self-described “humorist, photographer, and earthling” and in addition to bent objects does some hilarious work with paint chips and a homage to mustaches. I highly recommend this book and his website.
Truck Stop combines two of my children’s favorite things: trucks and breakfast food. The kids have a tradition of picking “their truck” in the opening page’s illustration of a dozen trucks. It is a sweet story full of compassion and coffee.
If your child ever has one of “those days,” where they wake up on the wrong side of the bed/toddler bed/crib/your bed, then this is a great book to share. Bella has a terribly hard day from breakfast through grocery shopping, a play date, dance class, and bath time. Patterson uses extra large fonts when Bella is upset and screaming things such as that her toothpaste is “TOO MINTY,” and the kids love it when I mimic Bella’s exasperation. Kids (and adults) can relate to Bella’s tough day and will be encouraged when she apologizes to her mom at bedtime and is cheerful the next day.
In honor of Liam’s “graduation” from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library we have contributed a small amount to show our appreciation to Dolly’s efforts towards literacy. See her website for further information about starting a preschool literacy program in your area or to read more about the titles that she selects for children around the country.
Thank you, Dolly!
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Further Reading from The Learning Curve: