Wayne State University Gives Free Books to Kids—With Help from Dolly Parton

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Being read to is crucial for early childhood development, but many low-income families have limited access to books to share with their kids. That’s why Michigan’s Wayne State University Library System is teaming up with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to distribute free books to Detroit families with children under five.

Over the past three decades, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has mailed more than 90 million free books to kids across the English-speaking world. Now, the Wayne State library is bringing the program to their local community. Any child in the 48201 and 48202 ZIP codes can opt to receive a free book in the mail every month from birth until their fifth birthday.

The program kicked off with a virtual readathon. Members of the Wayne State campus community—including students, faculty, and librarians—read children’s books aloud and encouraged families to sign up to participate. Throughout the course of the program, library staff will share tips and reading recommendations for promoting early literacy.

“We want to help support early literacy in our Wayne State community by getting books into the hands of kids who may not have easy access,” Betty Adams, chair of the Wayne State chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, said in a news release. “Research shows that reading to kids has a huge impact on developing language and vocabulary. By the age of 5, kids who have never been read to have only heard around 4,600 words. Kids who are read to every day have heard almost 300,000.”

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