Data collected by a team of local researchers concludes an experiment of sorts launched about five years ago by the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County seems to be working…and very well. In 2010, the coalition and its many community partners started enrolling select Syracuse children in a program that sent books to their homes in hopes of starting good reading habits with parents.
It’s called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Dr. Jeff Craig is Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support at OCM BOCES.
"Now we have students who've been receiving a book per month for years and years...long enough for us to be able to see that some of those students have arrived at school. We can assess their readiness for school."
Craig is one of a team of researchers who evaluated the data, along with Dr. Frank Ridzi. He’s Director of Research and Community Initiatives at the Central New York Community Foundation, and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Le Moyne College.
The researchers say kindergarten readiness is critically important because other research shows children who start kindergarten unprepared lose confidence, struggle, and have a much greater potential for failure through their entire school career and even into adulthood. Meanwhile, the enrollment process for families continues. Deputy County Executive for Human Services Ann Rooney says they gave the task to two young summer employees.
"They gave them a goal of perhaps signing up 10 kids per week. By the end of the summer, we'd have somewhere around 300. Well, by the end of last week, they have already, with a month to go at least, signed up 679 children and families."
Enthusiastic applause followed that news. But that wasn't the only big announcement from Rooney.
So far, more than 6,100 children have received in excess of 85,000 books through Dolly Parton's Imagination Libarary.