Imagination Library program targets youngsters

Keywords: Poll question,

The Cortez Rotary Club has begun implementing the international reading program, Dolly's Imagination Library, for all residents living in Montezuma County.

As of Nov. 2, Shane Hale, chairman on the Cortez Rotary Club committee and numerous club members, issued Imagination Library brochures to Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc libraries. The displayed packets can be picked up by any parent wanting to receive books for their child.

The program, started by singer and actress Dolly Parton in 1996, was launched as an attempt to encourage children to read and improve literacy by providing them with a free book every month from the time they are born to 5 years of age.

Originally, it was started by Parton as a way to give back to children in her home county in East Tennessee. In 2000, she extended the program to include all communities in the United States wanting to engage children in the importance of reading.

The brochure is a registration pamphlet for families to complete. Minimal information is needed such as the child's name, birthdate, mailing address and parent contact information. There is no cost to the parents.

There are only two requirements families need to meet: the family's mailing address must be in Montezuma County, (this includes a P.O. box), and the child must be within the ages of zero to 5 years.

“There are currently 1,530 kids eligible for the program in the county,” said Hale, who is also the Cortez City Manager.

In order for Imagination Library to be sustained within Montezuma County, 10 percent of the child population eligible to receive the books would need to be signed up by the fifth month in the program's conception. Since distribution of the brochures, 180 kids have been approved to participate, all within a three-week period.

“We got a lot of community outreach for this program,” Hale said. “With all the support, there's a good chance we hit 200 kids at the end of November.”

The club has received tremendous support in bringing the program to Montezuma County children. The county health department, Empire Electric and the Piņon Project have all responded in spreading the word to families.

The program was adopted in Cortez three months ago. Hale brought the program to the club's attention because his two sons were previous participants.

“The club embraced the idea with open arms and hit the ground with both feet running,” Hale said. “To have a free book mailed to a child once a month is a screaming good deal.”

The projected cost for the program is $25 per child a year for mailing and book fees. The average cost of the program, considering the number of eligible children, would have been roughly $38,250. All fundraising was done by the Rotary club with local businesses such as Empire Electric, Vectra Bank, Citizens State Bank, First National Bank and United Way all donating money. Other local Rotaries made donations, along with individuals who had a heavy interest in the program.

There are now 1,600 communities taking part in the program and 42 million books have been delivered. Hale hopes the community can help take that number to 43 million.

“It is really hard to debate the fact that providing good quality books to kids is a hard thing to do,” Hale said.

Every child receives “The Little Engine That Could” as their first book. The child will continue to receive books that are age appropriate every month. The year the child was born will determine which books they will receive that first year. A list of the books given can be found at by clicking on support center.

The Rotary club meets every second and fourth Monday every month, upstairs in the Cortez Welcome Center and are open to the public. For more information on the Imagination Library program or to make a donation, email Shane Hale at