River of reading quenching a thirsty desertMichael Abramowitz The Daily Reflector
Sunday, March 5, 2017
In a cozy corner of his living room, with his 18-month-old son, McCoy, snuggled in his lap, Steven Taylor, 28, of Bell Arthur read Friday from the book, Little Poems for Tiny Ears, by Lin Oliver and illustrated by Tomie dePaola.
“Way down there at the end of my feet, I’ve got ten toes; they’re really sweet. I can count them, make them wiggle, when they’re tickled, watch me giggle,” Taylor said.
When Steven turned the page to “My Nose,” before he could read the words, McCoy smiled and pointed to the picture of the little boy touching his nose, then grabbed his own and said, “nose.” Then he pointed to the page and said, “book,” then, “dog,” “cat” and “baby.”
Steven and his wife, Dana, 27, read that way with McCoy each day. They began the family ritual in August when they read the 1930 children’s classic, The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper. Each month since then, they have received in the mail a different book, selected and sent by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
“We first heard about the Imagination Library when we visited the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., where Dollywood is, but we didn’t have McCoy then,” Dana said.
But her mom works at Taff Office Equipment, which shares a building with the United Way of Pitt County. When McCoy was born, Mom showed pictures of him to Melissa Adamson, the United Way’s community impact director. Adamson suggested the family sign McCoy up for Imagination Library through the Books From Birth Early Literacy Coalition of Eastern North Carolina.
With help from Dolly Parton, Books From Birth and a growing number of public and private partners, the Taylors are among more than 3,000 families in Pitt County who have gained a new appreciation for reading and books — not the ones found on computer screens, but the kind people hold in their hands, with actual pages.
“Often, a parent will try to substitute a video or online experience for reading with a book, but there is no substitute,” Mayne Pharma executive and United Way board member Andy Herdman said. “There is something very specific about sitting with a child with a book and moving through the pictures and words that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that affects their trajectory in terms of academic achievement, well being and even their health later in life. That’s what’s so exciting about the United Way’s focus on this particular initiative; it attacks the root cause.”
If the trend continues to grow, the results could prove startling, United Way staff and board members said. There are 11,000 children under age 5 in Pitt County. Since the coalition introduced the Imagination Library program into Pitt County last May, 3,244 children under age 5 have had the books delivered to their homes. The coalition aims to reach 6,000 children by 2018, they said.