Local literacy efforts are taking root with help of MCF

Even with the amenities of modern technology, nothing can replace the feeling of opening a book and turning that first page. An investment in literacy can nurture a love of reading that positively impacts a student’s academic and professional career for decades. Through agency funds, donor advised funds, and unrestricted giving, the Marietta Community Foundation has supported a number of local literacy programs and initiatives helping the children of our community to build a strong foundation for education and success.

One such program is the Washington County Chapter of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school in participating communities across the globe. “The Imagination Library is a great way to foster a child’s love of reading very early on,” said Heather Allender, CEO of the Marietta Community Foundation. “Children who receive the monthly books and begin reading at a young age tend to score higher on reading tests than those students not enrolled in the program.”

Research shows that academically, children growing up in homes without books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors. One of the most successful ways to improve a child’s reading achievement is to increase their access to books, but 61% of low-income families do not have any age appropriate books for their kids at home.

Families enrolled receive a different age-appropriate, expert-selected book each month at no cost, regardless of the family’s income. The Washington County chapter currently has the capacity to serve 75 local children each year, with room to grow. “It is our goal to be able to enroll every child five and younger in this terrific program,” said Allender. To help the program expand and reach more area children, those interested can make a donation to the Marietta Community Foundation to support the Imagination Library program. It only takes $25 to support one child per year, or $125 for one child to complete the entire program.

Literacy is also an important cause to the Foundation’s two companion groups: the Women’s Giving Circle and the Youth Advisory Council. After receiving a grant from the Women’s Giving Circle earlier this year, the Youth Advisory Council purchased and prepared four Little Free Libraries to be installed across Washington County in early fall. Student members of the YAC collected donations of young adult books as well as sanitary items, hygiene items, and school supplies to stock the libraries. “This project will help everyone in the community, no matter the age, which is the ultimate goal of the YAC,” said Halle Richards, Secretary/Treasurer of the YAC.

Little Free Library is a national nonprofit that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges. By installing these tiny libraries throughout the county, the YAC hopes to increase access to books and other key items for local teens and families.

To further encourage area youth, members of the Youth Advisory Council volunteered alongside the Marietta Kiwanis Club this week to set up and host a Storybook Park event on the Armory Lawn during First Friday: Once Upon a Time. Storybook Park brings books to life through reading stations and hands-on activities, and sends each child home with a free book. The YAC is proud to partner with the Kiwanis to promote reading and youth philanthropy during First Friday.

The generosity and support of donors for important causes like literacy truly changes lives and keeps our area strong. To make a difference and support a cause that inspires you, contact Heather Allender, CEO of The Marietta Community Foundation at 740-373-3286 or heather@mcfohio.org.

Heather Allender is CEO of The Marietta Community Foundation.

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