Three-year-old Serenity Bernard has been getting a special treat in the mail each month since July.
The young Scotchfort girl views her brand new books that arrive monthly, addressed to her, as a gift.
“She’s excited to get her presents in the mail,’’ says mom Sheena Bernard.
Serenity is one of 43 aboriginal children in P.E.I. receiving a book a month through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
“I think it’s a really good program for children’s literacy, just to get them started and excited about books,’’ said Sheena.
Marilyn LeFrank, director of Child and Family Services with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., did the groundwork to bring the program to the Abegweit First Nations and Lennox Island First Nations.
Donations from the Summerside Rotary Club, the RCMP and through The Journal Pioneer’s Newspapers in Education program partnered with the education and PRIDE programs of the MCPEI to tap into the extremely popular program.
“It was kind of my baby, nurturing it along to get it off the ground,’’ said LeFrank, who is quick to add that the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. “is the local champion for P.E.I.’s Mi’kmaq children.’’
The 43 children will receive one book a month in the mail right up until their fifth birthday.
“They come with the child’s name on them in the mailbox,’’ said LeFrank.
“How exciting is that? Every month you go to the mailbox and there is a book with your name on it.’’
Parents are gushing over the program, says LeFrank, who says children are excited over getting books in the mail and many want to sit down right away to read it or have it read to them.
“It’s about early reading and exposing children at a very young age to reading,’’ she said.
Dolly Parton extended her congratulations to the MCPEI for being the first to bring the Imagination Library to Prince Edward Island.
“When I was starting my Imagination Library program I never dreamed that it would be mailing books all the way to Canada,’’ she said in a statement via her Canada office.
“I am thankful to Marilyn LeFrank for getting the program started and hope that more kind people like her on Prince Edward Island can help even more children to ‘Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More’.
Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1996 to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Her vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month.
“By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create,’’ states her Imagination Library website.
“Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.’’
The program became so popular that in 2000 Parton made it available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally.
Since the initial program was launched in the United States, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gone from just a few dozen books to nearly 40 million mailed to children in the U.S., Canada
and the United Kingdom.