DILLINGHAM -- All children from birth to age 5 in Dillingham will have access to a free new book each month under a reading program that started Saturday.
Best Beginnings has been working with the Curyung Tribal Council to bring Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to Dillingham. The country singer started the national program in 1996 to promote reading by young children.
The program has enrolled more than 12,000 children in Alaska, the Bristol Bay Times reported. Dillingham is the 20th area of Alaska to join the program. The first book children get is "The Little Engine That Could."
Robyn Chaney, a Dillingham mother of three, said it's critical to find ways to promote reading to children, especially in rural areas, which don't have many billboards or road signs to read. She and a group of parents applied for a grant for the program.
"There aren't a lot of words that you would see in the community," she told KDLG public radio station.
"If a child is signed up when they're born, by the time they hit the 5-year cutoff, they might have a library of 60 books in their home. We're hoping if they're there, we're making their home more literacy-rich. There are more words and more stories."
Barbara Brown, with the public-private partnership Best Beginnings, says that reading with kids before age 5 lays the foundation for future learning.
"Right now in the state, there's an assessment done of kindergarten children the first week as they show up for kindergarten," Brown told KDLG. "In that assessment, it's showing real clearly that children are showing up for kindergarten missing basic building blocks for learning."
If they enter kindergarten not knowing how to rhyme or sound out words, they stay behind, the radio station reported.