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Imagination Library of KY gets support from Senate committee

By Nancy Royden, LRC

Frankfort, KY - On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted 8-0 for Senate Bill 164, which would establish the Imagination Library of Kentucky Program along with a trust fund to help support it.

The program would oversee efforts to expand Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Kentucky - a book-gifting program for infants and young children. Parton, a widely recognized icon in the entertainment industry, established the reading initiative in 1995 because her father could not read and write.

SB 164 is sponsored by Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, are signed as co-sponsors.

McGarvey told committee members that the General Assembly appropriated money for the first time last year to help the Imagination Library grow in Kentucky.

"This is a phenomenal program that gives books to every child in a community ages zero to five," he said.

McGarvey said the initiative, which is curated through experts, has been positive elsewhere. He pointed to research showing that having 25 books in a home is equivalent to about two additional years of schooling for a child.

McGarvey said the bill would also address administrative measures to help the program expand, adding that funds are available in the House budget proposal for the next biennium. He said there are 90 programs covering 76 Kentucky counties, but the goal is to reach all 120.

"This simply sets up the Dolly Parton program in statute, and this committee sub places it with the Department for Libraries and Archives, which is where sort of the educational professionals and the lawmakers have agreed is the best place to house it," McGarvey said.

The bill states that state funds would be used to provide one age-appropriate book to each registered child through the library. Books would be sent monthly to each child's home at no cost to families.

The state program would contribute the 50% of the matching funds required of local programs that participate.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, thanked McGarvey for sponsoring the bill and said he is excited to see kids get engaged in reading. However, he also asked McGarvey to consider adding language that would ensure the subjects of the books are age appropriate.

McGarvey said he would be fine with adding the change, and he is confident the books' subjects are appropriate. He also said the initiative is not brand-new in Kentucky, but was organized through private organizations and the state is mirroring what has worked well in other states.

"(SB 164) sets the guardrails up so that they have a better idea of how it functions, where it is housed and how we can make sure it continues to grow," he said.

This story was posted on 2022-03-03 07:59:46
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