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Building imagination through books

Kiwanis Club and library partner with Dolly Parton Foundation


Books might not be the first thing most people think of when they picture singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. However, 480 Wilsonville children and their families have made that connection, thanks to a free program called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. by: JOSH KULLA - Pat Duke and Jan Rippey are working together to make sure Wilsonville children have books to read.

The program is designed to foster the love of reading among preschool children and their families. Under DPIL, a high-quality, age-appropriate book is shipped once a month directly to the home of each child who signs up for the free program. The only requirements are that the child be younger than 5 and have a 97070 ZIP code, according to Jan Rippey, DPIL’s director for Wilsonville.

DPIL encourages all families, regardless of household income, to sign up their preschool children.

“Of course the children who don’t have books in their home are the ones who benefit the most,” Rippey said. “But children in middle-class or upper-middle-class homes (also) need these books.”

In fact, Rippey said, while kids from upper-income homes are likely to have greater access to books, they also are likely to have greater access to electronic devices that compete with books for kids’ attention.

“Electronics are not bad,” she said, “but ... there’s no substitute for a parent sitting down and spending good quality time reading.”

Wilsonville’s DPIL launched in February 2012 and has grown rapidly, thanks to support from the Wilsonville Public Library. Library Director Patrick Duke is also the president of the city’s Kiwanis Club, DPIL’s major sponsor.

“We have access to a lot of families with children,” Duke said of the library. “Honestly, when I see a child under the age of 5 I can’t help but wonder if that child is in the DPIL, and I ask.”

Thanks to the support of the Dolly Parton Foundation and Penguin Books, the per-child cost of DPIL is just $26 per year. That includes the cost of mailing one book a month, Rippey said. Kiwanis has allocated $5,000 to support the program. Yet with the number of kids enrolled — and at the rate the program is expanding — that amount covers less than half the projected annual cost.

Rippey has supplemented with grants and donations from community supporters. And Kiwanis has a fundraiser coming up, the Kiwanis Kids Fun Run scheduled for Saturday at Wilsonville High. Tax-deductible donations, which are encouraged but not required for participation, will go to DPIL. The event begins with a 9 a.m. parade, followed by the fun run, games and activities, with a free healthy lunch provided to participants.

“DPIL is a good fit for the Kiwanis Club,” Duke said. “Kiwanis is about making the world better for kids, and that’s exactly what this program does.”

With about 41 percent of Wilsonville’s eligible population currently participating in DPIL, and with strong supporters like Kiwanis and the library on board, Rippey’s efforts could be considered successful — but she is not satisfied.

“We want 100 percent,” she said. “Tell your friends about it. We want kids to be signed up.”by: JOSH KULLA - Brittany Hill enrolled her two children, Owen, 2, and Emma, 7 months, in the free program.

Brittany Hill, mother of Emma, 7 months, and Owen, 2, is one DPIL supporter who is happy to spread the word. She said she talks about the program with her friends who are parents.

She is grateful for the books her children receive in the mail, she said.

“I’ve had a hard time getting (Owen) excited about checking books out,” she said. “Since we’ve gotten them in the mail, he’s a lot more excited. ... As soon as they come, he rips them open.”

Fostering that excitement about reading is DPIL’s goal and the reason people like Duke lend support.

“Reading every day creates a child who is ready to learn when they get to school,” he said. “One thing builds on another. ... If you’re worried about graduation rates in Oregon, read to your children, read to your grandchildren.”

For more information or to enroll in DPIL, visit the Wilsonville library or go online: wilsonvilleimaginationlibrary.weebly.com. To learn about the Kiwanis Kids Fun Run or to donate, visit kidsfunrun.org.



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