Peru — Until Whitney Anderson’s two children reach the fourth grade, she won’t have to purchase another book for them to read.
In addition, without visiting the library, she will be able to read a new book to them each month.
Through its Teammates In Growing Exceptional Readers (TIGERS) program, the Peru Community Schools recently began a literacy initiative in which Peru students from first through third grade will receive a free book each month.
“My kids love it when I read to them,” said Anderson, 31, who was recently visiting the Peru Public Library. “I think I love it more. Reading opens up new worlds for them and me.”
The Peru program — funded by about $75,000 from Title 1 grant money — is in addition to the county’s Imagination Library and the Miami County Books Offer Our Kids Success (BOOKS) program. Both of these programs offer free books to children.
All the programs are funded through grants and private donations.
The Imagination Library is a national program funded by the Dolly Parton Foundation and is managed by Dukes Memorial Hospital. Unlike TIGERS — which is for Peru students — the Imagination Library is for students in the county’s three school districts: Peru, North Miami Community Schools and the Maconaquah Schools Corp.
Since 2009, every child born at Dukes receives a free book each month until the child reaches the age of 5.
“I am thrilled about our program and what Peru is adding,” said Courtney Ogletree, Dukes’ director of marketing. “[The programs] are a benefit to families and to the communities. This is another wonderful benefit of living here.”
During the school year, Peru reading specialist Kim Martino said the BOOKS program offers a free book to every kindergartner in the county. For Peru’s students, the newly implemented TIGERS program will begin at the conclusion of a kindergartner’s school year.
BOOKS was incorporated in 2007.
“Parents see a value in what we are doing,” said Martino, who recently coordinated the TIGERS’ Free Book Friday where Peru Superintendent Chuck Brimbury and others read to elementary students at the Elmwood Primary Learning Center. They explained why reading was important, and the students went home with a free book.
“Through these programs,” Martino said, “Peru students will receive almost a 100 free books. The programs all work together.”
And working together and reading together can make dreams happen.
Based in Missouri, since it began in 1995, Parton’s Imagination Library has distributed more than 30 million books to children in the U.S., Canada and England, according to the program’s regional director, Pam Hunsaker.
“This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in your community,” Parton said in a statement. “When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor, or an inventor, or a minister. Who knows? Maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.”
While parents like Anderson won’t have to be concerned about spending money on new books, regardless, Brimbury advocates parents spend something more valuable: Time reading with their children.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us, our parents and our children in regards to childhood literacy. There is nothing more valuable than a parent taking the time to sit down and read with their child,” said Brimbury, adding more than 100 students are receiving books through the Imagination Library.
“It’s important to the child because it is time spent with an adult, and this is time that can happen every month. This is also very important because many of the children will be associated with reading before they enter school.
“These are very positive programs. It is great for the kids and great for the families. We feel very strongly about childhood literacy. It’s a total win-win for the schools and families.”