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Published: Wednesday, 2/5/2003

Young readers to get books

‘We wanted to jump on this right away,' says Beverly Prueter, Lima United Way president, with some of the books that'll be given away. ‘We wanted to jump on this right away,' says Beverly Prueter, Lima United Way president, with some of the books that'll be given away.

LIMA, Ohio - Angie Clark's 15-month-old daughter soon will be receiving her first in a series of books by mail. So will nearly 1,000 other small children across Allen County.

Officials with the local United Way recently decided to raise money - they've collected $44,000 so far - to participate in singer Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a national program that sends books monthly to any registered child from newborn to age five.

Some of the children involved have sponsors or parents to cover the annual $27 to participate, while the United Way in Lima will support any youngster whose family is unable to pay.

In all, about 7,500 youths could be eligible to participate in Allen County.

“I think it's a very exciting endeavor we're taking on in our community,” Ms. Clark said yesterday.

This month alone, Imagination Library will orchestrate the shipping of 39,015 books to children nationwide, said Pam Hunsaker, a regional director for Ms. Parton's foundation. Ms. Hunsaker said Allen County is one of only two areas in Ohio - the other is in Vinton County - with involvement in the program.

Ms. Parton originally developed and funded the project in 1995 exclusively for children in her hometown of Sevier County, Tenn. She later opened it up to youths across the nation.

In all, 195 organizations in 26 states are participating in the effort, Ms. Hunsaker said.

Beverly Prueter, president of the United Way of Greater Lima, Inc., said her nonprofit group decided to get involved after hearing about the success of the program from United Way officials elsewhere.

She said her board immediately started a separate fund-raising campaign for the project, bringing in $20,000 from one local foundation alone.

“We wanted to jump on this right away,” Ms. Prueter said. “The books are wonderful.”

All new participants first will receive a copy of the book The Little Engine that Could. From there, age-appropriate titles are sent monthly to the children's homes.

Ms. Prueter said the program is aimed at any child, although it could most greatly benefit those children without other early access to reading materials.

“We want kids to learn to read, “ she said. “We know it will help them in the future. “

After Ms. Clark heard about the program, she immediately signed up her daughter, Katie. Ms. Clark and her husband also are sponsoring three additional children this year.

For Ms. Clark, the program will be beneficial to expanding her daughter's reading selection. Though she's just over 1 year old, Katie picks up books for her parents to read to her, Ms. Clark said.

“I just thought it was an absolutely great opportunity for me to continue reading to her as she grows,” Ms. Clark said.

The first shipment of books in Allen County is expected to arrive in the mail this week. About 840 children were included in the first two orders, and a third order will be placed by early next week.

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