A large part of Detroit is covered by book deserts — neighborhoods with no bookstores and few books available for purchase anywhere else. Research shows that, in middle-income neighborhoods, the average home contains 13 books per child; low-income neighborhoods contain a single book for every 300 kids.
The Wayne State University Library System is looking to change that, starting in Midtown. Led by a team of library staff, the group has been working with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to bring the program to the Wayne State community.
“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,” said Betty Adams, chair of the Wayne State chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. “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.”
The program will provide every child in the 48201 and 48202 ZIP codes with access to free, age-appropriate books delivered directly to their homes. The books arrive by mail — often the first mail a child receives — every month from birth until the child turns 5. Each book is brand new and carefully selected by a panel of experts on childhood literacy and early education.
To kick off the program, the libraries will hold a real-time virtual read-a-thon event on YouTube from June 26 through June 30, where Wayne State students, faculty and librarians will read children’s books and encourage participants to sign up for the program. For those unable to attend the event, sign up is available at any time at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library's website.
Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the premier early childhood book-gifting program in the world by mailing well over 90 million free books in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States. Currently, the program mails over 1 million specially selected, age-appropriate books monthly to registered children from birth to age 5. Parton’s vision was to create a lifelong love of reading, prepare children for school and inspire them to dream. Recent studies suggest participation in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is positively and significantly associated with higher measures of early language and math development. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
The Wayne State University Library System consists of the university's five libraries: The David Adamany Undergraduate Library, the Purdy/Kresge Library, the Shiffman Medical Library, the Arthur Neef Law Library and the Reuther Library as well as the School of Information Sciences.
Wayne State University is a premier institution offering nearly 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 27,000 students.