Free books given to foster love of reading in Wareham youngsters

Dec 19, 2017

With a new program in Wareham, kids are able to get a free book mailed to them every month until their fifth birthday, with the goal of sparking a love of reading in young children.

Friends of the Wareham Free Library, headed up by Priscilla Porter, is sponsoring this free book program through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book gifting program that mails books to children from birth until they start school. So far, donations to the Friends have made it possible to sponsor 300 children.

Marcia Hickey, the children’s librarian at the Wareham Free Library, said she learned about the program when Jack Ducey, a library patron, suggested they try it.

“So many children in the community don’t have access to books,” Hickey said.

The program started in Wareham in November, though nationally it began in 2000. The books can start coming at birth, Hickey said, so in the hospital after delivering a baby, parents can apply to start receiving the books. They begin as board books and move up to hardcovers as the child gets older. There are 80 children in Wareham signed up for the program so far.

The books, all published by Penguin Random House, are selected by a panel of early childhood literacy experts, ensuring they are high-quality.

“Kids love getting things in the mail,” Hickey said. “It’s their own book to add to their library.”

Though the books are free for every child who is signed up, the cost of mailing the books must be covered. Friends of the Wareham Free Library is raising money to pay for the cost, $25 a year per child. People can sign up to sponsor a child or multiple children through donations of checks made out to the Friends of the Wareham Free Library with "Imagination Library" in the memo. Porter said she's amazed at how many donations have come in so quickly to sponsor the program.

"We're not looking at this as a one-year thing," Porter said. "We hope the town will embrace it and those that have contributed will continue to do so year after year."

Hickey said this program encourages more families to come to the library. Once children have a love for reading, they are more likely to ask their parents to take them to the library for new books.

“Parents see how much kids love to be read to,” she said. “So many people don’t realize how easy it is...all children will slow down and listen to a story.”

The program is open to anyone in Wareham and Onset, regardless of income. Families having less time to read with kids is a problem for almost everyone, Hickey said, since parents are working and there isn’t a lot of time for reading.

“Families have been thrilled to get 12 books a year,” she said. “What can be wrong with that?”

Porter said it can be especially hard for low-income families to provide new books to kids.

"When you're trying to make ends meet, you pick and choose what you spend your money on," she said. But she feels the Imagination Library helps "create future library people" and inspires children to love books.

Registration forms are available at the library on Marion Road and the Spinney Branch Library in Onset, as well as at Turning Point, area churches and the town hall. All are encouraged to sign up if they have a child under age 5.

“The gift of reading to a child is the greatest gift you can give them because it lasts a lifetime,” Hickey said.