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Library Foundation campaign to help improve early literacy

Imagination Library program gives free books to children every month for a year from age 0 to 5-years-old.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 12, 2015
  • Sarasota
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The last book the Library Foundation of Sarasota County President Linda Getzen checked out was the e-book version of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

She has the entire series in paperback but plans on donating it to a child in need to encourage a new generation to fall in love with the characters and reading. 

That’s just one way she’s trying to encourage children to fall in love with reading and improve early literacy skills. Through a new fundraising campaign by the Library Foundation, Getzen hopes to promote early literacy skills for children throughout Sarasota County. 

Since 2009, the Imagination Library Program of the Library Foundation has been working to get books in the hands of children as young as 1 month old. 

Through the Imagination Library children are mailed one book per month until they reach age 5. It costs $25 per year for one child to receive 12 books per year. In that span of time, each child builds a library of 60 books. The first book they’re sent is “The Little Engine That Could"; the final title they receive is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come.”

At the moment, due to a shortage of funds, the program is only able to serve 500 children through 2017 and won’t be able to add more. A new fundraising campaign seeks to establish an endowment to sustain the program for future generations. The deadline for the current goal of $500,000 is Dec. 31, 2016.  

The program points to research from the National Council for Family Literacy that shows an increase in literacy levels when there is an availability of reading materials and parents frequently read to children. 

“(We're) hoping that they’ll read at home and that their parents are reading to them,” Getzen said. 

“There is so much excitement when the book comes to the child in the mail box," said Claudia Cardillo, campain chairwoman. "It has their name on it, too."

Imagination Library has helped shipped more than 100,000 books to 3,500 children in 12 ZIP codes in Sarasota County. Children qualify for the program based on whether their ZIP code has been determined to have a high need. They can also qualify through enrollment in Children First, the Early Learning Coalition, Sarasota County Schools, participating day cares and preschools. 

"We are creating a Children’s Early Literacy endowment with the intent to encourage reading at a younger age and to get them into the library and to build that relationship," Cardillo said. 


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