The United Way of Pitt County honored the givers, advocates and volunteers determined to improve the community during its annual meeting Wednesday in downtown Greenville.
The event recognized the people who make the United Way's work possible and gave the organization an opportunity to highlight Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, the newest initiative of its partner organization, Books from Birth: An Early Literacy Coalition of Eastern North Carolina.
United Way supports the program’s effort to give enrolled children one book a month from birth to age 5.
"Our announcement today was to formally say you can register your child to get in the Imagination Library," said Jim Cieslar, United Way executive director. "We also wanted to report how we are spending our money and what our focus is."
Ninety percent of critical brain development happens in the first five years of life, said Melissa Adamson, United Way's impact and communications director.
When children enter kindergarten unprepared, the school system will spend about $3 million a year in remediation programs, she said.
"Children are born ready to learn," Adamson said. "They do not start learning in kindergarten."
If that's when a child's learning begins, it's much too late, she said. "The first months and years of life set the stage for everything else to come."
It takes as few as 25 books to make a difference, Adamson said, because research found that children with as few as 25 books in the home completed an average of two or more years of schooling compared to those with no books.
Since the program had its "soft launch" a month ago, 1,000 children have been enrolled, said Ron Mitchelson, East Carolina University provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Books are provided to children at no cost and there are no income requirements for enrolling in the program, said Jim Cieslar, United way executive director.
However, the organization has to purchase the books, he said. A $30 donation will pay for one child to receive a year's worth of books; $150 will cover one child for five years, he said. Individuals can learn more about the program at BooksFromBirthofENC.com.