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Dani Miles reads through a story with her son, 3-year-old Douglas, in their New Albany home in 2016 as part of Floyd County’s Imagination Library program.

SOUTHERN INDIANA — John Ashton set out to enroll his child into Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, but discovered there was a problem.

There wasn’t an Imagination Library in Clark County.

So Ashton changed that by organizing and launching a local chapter of the program, which provides free books for children from birth until the age of 5.

Since the Clark County chapter began in January, more than 2,200 children have been enrolled.

“I’m just very excited to have this available, and very proud of our partnership with Community Action Southern Indiana,” Ashton said.

CASI joined the Bales Foundation and Metro United Way to provide funding for the effort. It costs $25 to sponsor a child annually. They receive a book in the mail each month for their parents or guardians to read to them, and about 20,000 books will be sent to Clark County children by the end of the year.

“It’s just great because children don’t have enough books at home,” Ashton said. “It promotes literacy across the area, but it’s also helpful for parents.”

Floyd County’s Imagination Library began in 2009. The program receives $50,000 annually from the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, and the Metro United Way, the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec have also been partners in the effort.

Individual donors also support the Imagination Library.

“Our community has been so generous over this time,” said Becky King, director of the Floyd County Imagination Library.

More than 3,500 children are enrolled in Floyd County, and King said that equals about 75% of the total amount of those eligible. Though it’s a high mark, and the county’s budget for the program is about $90,000 annually, King said the organization is focused on achieving 100% participation.

“The whole idea of a book coming to a mailbox with your name on it is something that’s extremely special for a child,” she said.

Reading to a young child paves the way for expanding vocabulary and giving the child a headstart before beginning school, King said.

“Some people believe that children start learning at school, but they really start learning at birth,” she said.

While King and Ashton said the programs are always in need of donors, their main focus is getting children signed up for the Imagination Library. It’s free and all children meeting the age requirements are eligible.

Registration can be completed on the website In Floyd County, people can also call King at 812-542-4001 to register. In Clark County, visit the Imagination Library Facebook page for more information.

In Floyd County, donations can be sent to the New Albany-Floyd County Education Foundation, and to CASI in Clark County.

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