Within one week, Head Start teacher Sarah Westerman registered 41 children for a free program that can take them anywhere.
“She is cookin’,” Rotary Club of Port Townsend member Lynette Jennings said.
Westerman’s kids are just the beginning of the Jefferson County connection to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program, which also welcomes Clallam County parents to sign their children up, was cause for a short and enthusiastic celebration Monday on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval cut a colorful alphabet ribbon and a crowd of Rotary Club members cheered for the hope that reading — with parents’ help — will inspire young people to pursue their fondest dreams.“The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper is the first book given at no cost to kids who are signed up for the Imagination Library. Then, until a child turns 5, another free, new book comes in the mail every month. Parents with newborns up to just younger than 5 are encouraged to register for these books, which are chosen for each age group.
In Jefferson County, registration will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at three locations: the Safeway parking lot at 442 W. Sims Way in Port Townsend, the QFC at 1890 Irondale Road in Port Hadlock and outside the Quilcene Community Center at 294952 U.S. Highway 101 in Quilcene.
In Clallam County, parents and guardians can sign up for the Imagination Library via the North Olympic Library System website, NOLS.org, under the Kids and Teens link, or by phoning 360-417-8500, ext. 7733. Registration can also be done curbside at the public libraries in Sequim, Port Angeles, Clallam Bay and Forks.
The United Way of Clallam County, the North Olympic Library Foundation, Port Angeles Kiwanis and the Kiwanis Foundation have helped provide significant funding, said Youth Services Librarian Jennifer Knight.
The Imagination Library has been a huge hit, she said, adding 768 Clallam children have joined since the kickoff in November.
Families receive one book per child per month — 12 per year — and as many as 60 books to read by the time the child turns 5, Knight noted. Bilingual books in Spanish and English as well as audio books for visually impaired readers are available.
About 1,068 children younger than 5 live in Jefferson County, the Rotary Club of Port Townsend said in a press release. Saturday’s registration has a capacity of slightly more than 200 kids, so the club will begin fundraising for another registration push later this year.
Those who cannot get to one of the registration sites this weekend are encouraged to phone Jennings at 970-250-8288 or email [email protected]
“Right now we’re working on a long-term strategy specifically for raising funds for the Imagination Library,” Jennings said.
The cost is $25 per child per year.
“What we’re paying for is postage,” Jennings said, since Parton’s program covers the cost of the books themselves.
“This is not a one-time project. We’re really making a long-term commitment,” she said.
To make a direct donation, mail a check to Rotary Club of Port Townsend, 2023 E. Sims Way, unit 172, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
“For us,” Knight said, “it’s been one of the more successful program initiatives for kids during the pandemic. The No. 1 thing we heard from Head Start was that kids were having hard time accessing books.”
Parents and children from Neah Bay all the way to Clallam County’s eastern boundary near Discovery Bay are now receiving their books, Knight said.
The dozens of titles arriving in the mail range from Tomie dePaola’s “Mother Goose,” S.J. Fore and Robert Alley’s “Read to Tiger” and Steve Breen’s “Violet the Pilot” to Nancy Carlson’s “Look Out, Kindergarten, Here I Come!”
Contributions to Clallam County’s program can be sent to North Olympic Library Foundation, 2210 S. Peabody St., Port Angeles, WA 98362.
For more about the Imagination Library programs across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Republic of Ireland, see imaginationlibrary.com.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]