It is my quest to replicate the wonderful "Imagination Library" program to all First Nation communities in Manitoba, a goal that I set three years ago.This program provides brand new, pre-selected books to each and every child in a community. The books would be delivered right to their mailbox, each and every month. That means over 11,000 children will receive these exciting resources and there is absolutely no costs to families! Communities do need to find sponsors, community champions to replicate the program. As a First Nation woman, most of my life has been devoted to working with Aboriginal communities. Much of the focus on parenting and early years and how best to support families as they children develop through the preschooler years and begin school "ready". Most of our First Nation communities do not have access to libraries or most families cannot afford the cost of buying books regularly for their children. Also our First Nation youth suffer four times the drop out rate compared to others. Academic success begins in the home at birth with parents/caregivers as "first teachers". We need to provide our families with the best tools available and a better understanding of the importance of literacy, language and learning. I feel very passionate about promoting the benefits of family literacy throughout communities in particularly the early years. I have had the pleasure of working with 14 First Nations communities that have successfully replicated the Imagination Library program for their children. We have heard raves of success stories from parents about children believing it is their birthday each month, what they learned from their "Dolly" books. We always mention to parents that even though the books are free, your investment is to read to your child for at least 15 minutes a day. I have also heard from another 32 communities that would like to replicate the program but cannot afford the funds or do not have the support of sponsors. There has never been a more defined need to provide literacy resources in our communities. As a volunteer, I will be approaching many levels of government, financial institutions, private corporations, etc. to find the funds needed for existing communities to replicate the Imagination Library program. A number individuals have come forth to volunteer their time with assisting me in my endeavours as well. A strong partnership has also been developed with Bookmates Family Literacy Resource Centre to provide training to reps from communities on "how best" to utilize the books and how important it is to promote the love of reading in the home. Memories are made in the laps of parents/caregivers reading to their child. The communities will receive over 660,000 books for an initial five year period, each and every child will begin school with a personal library of 60 books. All books are selected on ages and stages and promote kindergarten readiness, manners, sharing, etc. I imagine five years from now when our children begin school immersed with the love of reading. Research shows that early literacy, early reading makes such a significant impact on academic success and if that doesn't do it, there is also the fact that some US states plan their future jail cells based on the Grade 3 reading levels.
As a single parent who has had a child in reading recovery all of his elementary years and now has daily struggles with high school, I can attest to the importance that reading plays throughout early years and the school system. But more importantly the affect it also has on self-esteem and confidence, when children/youth struggle with literacy at any age. The books might be not life changing for everyone but for that little boy who waits anxiously for his monthly book to arrive and how he chooses that over toys, etc. we are making some progress. Change takes time but we all need to do our part to promote academic success in our communities and that starts from birth.