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Imagination Library launched in DL, free books for kids

PAULA QUAM/RECORD Teaching assistant jenny savig reads to her son, Derrik, and Annika Erickson at Kids First Preschool in First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes. Annika is one of about 30 Detroit Lakes kids signed up for Imagination Library so far.

Dr. Seuss once wrote, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."

Now, more small children in the Detroit Lakes area have that opportunity to "go more places," as the Holy Rosary Mom's Group has launched Imagination Library.

The program is designed with one thing in mind -- to put books in the hands of children -- all children.

"This is an equal opportunity gift to the community that I think people can get really excited about," said Amy Erickson, who is coordinating the efforts to launch this program.

Imagination Library is available to children ages birth to five years old, where any child signed up receives a free book in the mail, addressed and delivered specially to them.

There's no income stipulation; there's no cost to parents.

But although Dolly Parton's foundation is the main financial force behind the program, they do require a little help from a local sponsor, which in this case is the Catholic Mom's Group.

That means Erickson and her fellow group members are now hitting the pavement in an attempt to raise enough funds to sustain Imagination Library.

Morning Rotary, Lakeshirts, and Meadowland Surveying have all jumped on board to help support the project, as well as Erickson's husband and his family, who own Cabo Villas Beach Resort in Mexico and Midwest Servicing Group in Detroit Lakes.

This financial kick start has made the initial program launch possible, as each book will cost the Catholic Mom's Group about $25 dollars a year for each child enrolled.

Although that could require some substantial fundraising, depending on the number of kids they've got, it's still a small fraction of what consumers would pay in a store.

"These are good, quality books, not some silly photo copy thing," said Erickson, who has two of her three children enrolled, "they're Penguin books."

Although every child receives the same first book ("The Little Engine That Could") after that the books are sent according to age level.

"So if you had four children under the age of five, they'd all get different books every month," said Erickson, who says a child that's signed up at birth would receive 60 books over their five years in the program, making it truly a little library for that child.

"I just think that the greatest gift you can give a child is the love of reading," said Erickson, "and they can't do that if they don't have the books."

Erickson says even if parents can afford to buy books, she encourages them to still sign up and then just possibly make a donation to the program.

"I think a lot of parents, even if they can afford to buy books, don't always do it or don't always have time to make it to the library," said Erickson, "but when it comes directly in the mail addressed to their child, it helps them make it a priority."

There are several Imagination Libraries around the U.S., Canada and England, which have delivered about 40 million books to the 673,346 kids enrolled. (Dolly Parton has a head count running on her website.)

The program has also been running in Cass and Clay counties for a few years.

But as it stands, the local Imagination Library will only be open to children in the 56501 zip code.

"I would love to be able to expand to all of Becker County one day," said Erickson, who is busy researching grant opportunities and will be spearheading fundraisers in the future.

"I think people will grab onto this because every dollar they donate goes directly towards the books and our local kids -- there's no administrative costs," said Erickson, who adds that although checks are technically made out to Holy Rosary, the money goes directly to the Imagination Library.

She said the group will be attending local events in the hopes of getting more support and more kids signed up.

Dolly Parton's foundation "does this to generate excitement, promote ownership and deliver them with dignity," said Erickson, "so every kid can get the opportunity to own these quality books."

To sign up or to donate, log on to the local website, which is