The Sharon Public Library held an open house Friday afternoon and had special cupcakes in honor of Reading Railroad and the message of literacy that it promotes.
It takes a community spirit, a generous heart and a profound love for tomorrow’s leaders to place a book in the hands of every child from birth until he is five years old each month. The marriage of those ideas is what inspires members of the Weakley County Reading Railroad to keep the valuable program alive and well in the county.
In recognition of the original brain-child of Dolly Parton – Imagination Library – libraries across the county celebrated Imagination Library Week last week.
Each library hosted an event which featured snacks, story-telling, open houses, free gifts and, of course, the opportunity to sign up for library cards and check out books.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is an inclusive program through which children receive a new age-appropriate book every month from birth until their fifth birthday. The program is at no cost to the family and is available to all children regardless of income.
As a part of the Imagination Library, the Weakley County Reading Railroad was formed in October of 2004. It will celebrate its seventh birthday this year.
While the books are free to every child based on age, each county Reading Railroad program across the state is asked to pay postage to the Imagination Library for the enrolled children in their county.
Presently, 1,217 children in Weakley County receive books from the program and 1,295 children have graduated since the program’s beginning in October of 2004. Weakley County was the first county in the state to enroll 50 percent of its population in the program.
The cost to mail the books to the children enrolled in Reading Railroad in Weakley County is slightly more than $13,000. Thus far, the City of Martin as well as Weakley County, set aside money from their coffers to help offset some of the postage costs.
The rest of the money needed comes from privates donations or through fundraising projects.
Not only is there a need for funding, but a need to enroll more children into the program to ensure a book is placed into the hands of every child in the county.
According to a committee spokesperson, enrollment numbers for Weakley County Reading Railroad are down.
Enrollment is as simple as going to a local library, filling out a form and leaving the application at the library. Once the form is processed through Imagination Library, the child will begin receiving books until he turns five.
The books range from first sounds and colors for babies to life lessons for infants to potty-training and dealing with siblings for toddlers. As children develop into pre-schoolers, the books become centered around learning and having fun at the same time.
An address label on each book lists the child’s name directly above the guardian’s name so that he/she can look forward to receiving an item in the mail. For $24, one child in the county can receive a year’s worth of books from the program.
Donations can be mailed to Weakley County Reading Railroad, 100 Main St., Martin, TN, 38237.
For additional information about the program, find Weakley County Reading Railroad on Facebook.