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Reading program targets area youth

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Danville-Neel and Falkville elementary schools are bridging the gap from birth to preschool with a new reading program.
Danville-Neel was the first school in the state to take part in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a book program that sends one free book each month to children from birth to age five in the school's district.
Falkville was the second school in Alabama to participate. Morgan County Alabama Reading Initiative reading coach Linda Owens anticipates that many others will soon follow suit.
"Almost every school in Morgan County has expressed serious interest," Owens said. "We're dreaming big and hoping to get every school in the state involved with this program."
At a yearly cost of $27 per child, each registered child will receive a total of 60 hardback, age appropriate books by well-know children's authors delivered to their home at no cost.
With approximately 420 eligible children in the Danville-Neel school district and 300 in Falkville, Danville-Neel Principal Jeremy Jones and Falkville Principal Hank Summerford said the programs need their community's support.
"The money can be raised and we'll do it one way or another," Summerford said. "Falkville has already received enough donations to support the program this year, but we will probably turn to our local government to match funds in years to come."
Summerford said despite the fact that Falkville Elementary School is a Title I school family economics will not factor into the program.
"The books are completely free to each child," Summerford said. "Just because a child's family may be lacking financially doesn't mean they shouldn't be exposed to learning. That's why we're looking to the community to cover the $27 yearly cost"
According to Jones, the Danville-Neel program has already received a donation of $1,350 from a former Danville resident.
"The benefits far outweigh the cost," Jones said. "The program will not only immerse children in books, but also give parents an opportunity to become reading partners with their children."
Jones and Summerford said the response has been tremendous since the program was announced in late January.
"It has really snowballed," Jones said. "The more schools and parents who know and participate, the more students who will have a jump start on reading and higher self-esteem."
Jones hopes to eventually have information regarding the program sent home from the hospital with newborns.
"That way, parents can register their children for a Social Security card and books at the same time," Jones said.
Sign-ups for the Danville-Neel community will be at the school during the first two weeks of March.
Children need only to be within the ages of birth to five years to quality for the reading program, regardless of financial circumstances. Those interested in enrolling their child or making a donation may contact 773-7182 or 751-HOPE.
Sign-ups for the Falkville community will be at the school starting March 1. Enrollment forms will be available at Falkville City Hall, Falkville Post Office, local banks and businesses. Those interested in enrolling their child or making a donation may contact 784-5294.

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