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February 24, 2014

The Siefker children enjoy a bedtime reading of Little Owl’s Night, a book they’ve recently received via United Way’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library. From left to right: Aiden (3), Jen, and Wyatt (22 months).
Once a month, the postman brings both three-year old Aiden Siefker and his two-year old brother Wyatt a colorful new book with their name on it. The books are free and theirs to keep, providing hours of enjoyment and learning. The Marysville brothers are enrolled in United Way’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

“This is the greatest program ever!” exclaimed their mother, Jen. “My boys get so excited when a new book comes in the mail that we have to sit and read it immediately!”

By enrolling their children online (at www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org) or at their local library, the Siefkers ensure that they each will receive a free book every month until their fifth birthday, accumulating a library of up to 60 books per child.

“It helps to give us a variety of books too,” Jen said. “We read a few books before each naptime and before bed, plus a few other times during the day. I love having the different subjects and genres to read to the kids. This has had a major effect on how well my boys talk today.”

That’s exactly one of the goals United Way volunteers hoped to accomplish when they brought the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Union County in 2008. 81 percent of parents whose children are enrolled report that they read more to their kids because of it.

The Ardrey twins (Adilynn and Landon) love to explore the new books they receive via United Way’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library with their mom, Tammy. Mrs. Ardrey knows the value of reading. She’s a Reading Specialist at Edgewood Elementary and is thankful for the community’s involvement in promoting early literacy skills.
And local school administrators credit this additional intervention for helping to improve kindergarten readiness. Dr. Rick Smith, Superintendent at North Union Schools, says the number of children testing not ready for kindergarten during the enrollment process has been reduced – from 20 percent to five percent over the last few years. 105 of the 840 Union County children currently receiving the free monthly books reside within the North Union Local School District.

“Parents come to our literacy nights or our Wee Cats preschool program and register their kids for the Dolly Parton Library,” he said. “It gets books into children’s hands early and gets them to understand letters and words, how pictures help to tell a story – all before they come to school.”

While there is no fee to families to participate in the program, United Way makes nearly a $22,000 investment annually to cover costs to mail the books. That’s why the 5th annual Billiards for Books event at Cue Stick Café in Marysville is scheduled for Saturday March 15. Teams of two can join for $30 to play in the double elimination tournament. Players can find details and register online at http://www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org/B4B.php.

Rick Dawson, owner of the Cue Stick Café in Marysville, lines up a shot. The Cue Stick Café is the host of United Way’s 5th annual Billiards for Books Tournament on Saturday March 15.
“It’s fascinating to watch,” said Barb Nicol, volunteer chair of United Way’s Women with a Mission Committee. “I don’t play pool. But we’ve got everybody. People who come because of what it’s a fundraiser for. People who think it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. And people who play who are really very good. It’s the kind of place you can bring a family. And the food is always great.”

Those who don’t shoot pool can make a donation or purchase raffle tickets to win a 2014 Mercedes Pedal Car or other items. The cost to sponsor a child for an entire year is $25.

“I have 22 month old twins,” said Tammy Ardrey of Milford Center. “Everyone in our home gets very excited when we receive a new book in the mail. It is truly a special day in the home. Reading to my children brings me such great joy and is wonderful bonding time. We love to read and explore books together. We are truly thankful for this program. The books we have received from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library are my children's favorite books. They will be treasured for years to come and are assisting my husband and myself in raising lifelong readers and learners. Thank you!”

United Way works to bring neighbors and resources together to improve lives in Union County. United Way of Union County has raised more than $18 million for local needs since it was established in 1958. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with local businesses, government, and non-profit organizations to solve pressing social service issues large and small.

For more information, please visit www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org.
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