OKLAHOMA CITY – A program to encourage Oklahoma children to become better readers is one step closer to becoming a reality. Senate Bill 1803, by Sen. John Haste, creates the framework for Oklahoma to have its own Imagination Library, a program to get free books in the hands of children. Haste said the goal is to encourage a love of reading and improve education outcomes. The bill, modeled after a program founded by entertainer Dolly Parton in her home state of Tennessee, was approved on Monday.
The Imagination Library would be a public/private partnership that would mail every Oklahoma child one high-quality, age-appropriate book a month beginning at birth and continuing through age five. Under SB 1803, Oklahoma’s Imagination Library would be administered through the State Department of Education and would have no restrictions or financial limits for families to participate.
“This effort has been proven to increase reading time, increase Kindergarten readiness and is credited with helping children score higher on reading tests,” said Haste, R-Broken Arrow. “Reading is key to helping children succeed in school and throughout life. That’s what the Imagination Library is all about.”
Haste said he was inspired to begin an Imagination Library after attending a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Tennessee last summer, which included a presentation with Dolly Parton. She founded the Imagination Library in 1995 for the children in Sevier County, Tennessee, with the program later expanding throughout the entire state. Today, Parton’s Imagination Library has partners in communities throughout the country, with statewide programs in North Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas and Delaware and has been adopted in Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“What Dolly Parton has done is absolutely inspirational and it’s making a positive difference in the lives of millions of children,” Haste said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring the Imagination Library to Oklahoma’s kids, and I thank my fellow members for supporting this legislation.”
Haste said the first book mailed to each Oklahoma child would be “The Little Engine that Could.”
SB 1803 now moves to the House for further consideration