Editor's note: Helping Hands is a Sunday column offering our area nonprofit groups a chance to talk about their work. If your group would like to be considered for participation, email jperry@dlnewspapers.com. This column is by Amy Erickson, founder of the Lakes Area Imagination Library.

Greetings!

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has mailed well over 100 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.4 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age 5.

Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

For children in an area to have access to the Imagination Library, a local affiliate must agree to cover a small percentage of the cost of the books and the bulk mailing, roughly $25 per child, per year.

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Our local affiliate, the Lakes Area Imagination Library, has been active since 2011. We formed as a group of moms from Holy Rosary who wanted to take on a service project, and began by covering only the Detroit Lakes ZIP code. We quickly expanded to all of Becker County and opened our group to anyone who wanted to join.

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Currently, more than 1,300 children in Becker County receive a book every month through our program, delivered directly to their homes. Additionally, more than 1,500 children have received books and then aged out of our program. A child who is enrolled at birth can receive up to 60 free books before they start kindergarten!

In all, more than 15,000 books have been delivered to area homes since we began.

The books include popular favorites such as selections from the “Llama, Llama” series, classics such as “The Little Engine That Could,” board books, bilingual books, books with a multicultural themes, and books written by Dolly Parton herself, such as “Coat of Many Colors,” which was based on her hit song.

We are all volunteers and we are completely dependent on donations, grants and fundraisers. Not every child is fortunate enough to have access to the Imagination Library, including children in several of our surrounding counties. We very much appreciate the support that we have received so far, and hope that you will continue to support our efforts by making a donation today. For every $25 you donate, a child will receive a book every month, delivered directly to their home; $125 will provide 60 books to a child from birth to their fifth birthday!

More info

For more on the Lakes Area Imagination Library, email info@imaginationlibrarydl.org or call 218-841-2944.

Donations can be sent to: Lakes Area Imagination Library, PO Box 1834, Detroit Lakes, MN 56502-1834, or online at imaginationlibrarydl.org.