With many smiles and poignant moments, the Imagination Library Luncheon 2019 took place on September 12. In addition to enjoying a visit with friends, a sip of champagne, or the delicious food provided by Valley River Inn, attendees embraced Eugene’s children in addressing early literacy for all.
The Imagination Library of Eugene is now serving almost 3,700 preschoolers every month. This important program delivers a new book every month to each child’s door, from birth until the age of 5, with their own name on it. Each book includes guidance for parents on reading to their child and engaging them in the fun! 100% of the program is supported by generous donations from our community and this wonderful event.
The Imagination Library Luncheon is the premier benefit supporting the Imagination Library of Eugene. With an annual cost of almost $120,000, this event raises over a third of the amount needed to continue to offer this critical program.
Read Speaker Judy Cox’s Moving Speech Below
Born in San Francisco, Judy Cox decided to become a writer from a young age. She started her first book at the age of eleven! Continuing to write through high school and college, she earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and started teaching. Later, Judy became a reading specialist in grades K – 5. It was perfect training for a children’s writer. To date, she has published 27 children’s books and more than 30 short stories in children’s magazines such as Cricket, Spider and Highlights for Children. Judy’s books have won several awards, including the Mathical Award, Oregon Spirit Award, Nevada Young Reader’s Award, Children’s Choice list, ABA Pick of the Lists, CBC Best Books of 2000, and the Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Award. Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie! was selected by TIME magazine as one of the best children’s books of 2005 and Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie! was named to TIME Magazine’s Best Children’s Books of 2009 list. Her books have also been nominated for state awards in Maryland, Rhode Island, Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Texas, and Washington and have been translated into several languages.
“I’d like to thank everyone for being here. Thanks to you and all your hard work that makes this program successful. Imagination Library is a community-based program. The money raised stays in the community. You are here because you care enough about your children—all the children—to make this program work. I commend you.
I had the great fortune to grow up in a household that loved books and reading. My dad took me to the library at an early age. My mom read aloud to all of us every day after lunch throughout the summer—books like Winnie the Pooh, and Wind in the Willows. We had bookshelves in the living room, with books the whole family could share, but we also had shelves of books in each of our bedrooms. I always asked for books for birthday and Christmas presents—my favorites were horse stories by Marguerite Henry who wrote “Misty of Chincoteague”.
One of my favorite days in school was when the Scholastic Book Order came out. I’d save up my allowance to buy a book for 50 cents. I remember “Ginny and the Mystery Doll” was a favorite.
Dad took us to the library, and when I was in Middle School, it was a great treat that I was allowed to walk downtown to the library after school—on my own!—and stay there until he got off work and would come pick me up.
Mom read to us, after lunch during summer vacation. All five of us kids loved to listen, even though most of us were already reading on our own. Sometimes the whole lot of us would pile into her bed to hear Mom read stories. We also subscribed to a couple of book clubs. Remember Reader’s Digest Books? They were perfect for me as I transitioned between children’s books and adult books. We also subscribed to the Happy Hollisters Book Club. Mom would save the books as they came in the mail and dole them out on long road trips. As the oldest, I always finished my book first and had to wait for someone else to finish theirs and trade with me.
The joys of growing up surrounded by books! Is it any wonder I became a writer? When my husband and I had our son, Chris, we shared our love of books and reading with him. We subscribed to a book club that sent him books every month—Award winning picture books and stories to feed his imagination, power up his vocabulary, stimulate his brain. We read to him, starting in utero and long after he was reading for himself. We made up stories together and wrote them down. We had a family book club of three. Soon, the bookshelves in his room overflowed, too. Is it any wonder he became a writer as well? The joys of growing up in a home with books!
Now, picture growing up in a household without books. Nothing to read and no one to read with. Getting to school and maybe not even knowing how to hold a book. I experienced this in my nearly 30 years as a teacher and reading specialist. One assignment—in Caldwell, Idaho–I had a kindergarten class of children who didn’t have books at home—the children of migrant farm workers. And we had to teach them how to hold books and treat them with respect. Some of these kids had not had that opportunity to do so before. However, they were all enthralled by the power of story. By the end of the year, I could get their full attention just by holding up a book and saying: Once upon a time!
Homes need books. Studies confirm that the number of books in the home directly predicts reading achievement in school. Let me quote this from the National Commission on Reading: “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”
Why is reading with children before they start school so important? The greatest amount of brain growth happens between birth and age 5. “By the age of 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers.” 1.
“Children growing up in homes with at least twenty books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class.” 2.
We must get books in the home. Here’s another reason. Early language experiences build literacy and readiness for school. Readiness doesn’t mean trying to teach kids to read at unusually early ages. It means positive experiences with books and other forms of print. Five basic readiness skills that the Imagination Library can help with are:
Print Awareness—becoming aware that print has meaning
Phonological Awareness—ability to hear and identify sounds in spoken words—fun activities like rhyming, alliteration, segmenting are key
Letter Knowledge—name and identify alphabet letters
Listening Comprehension—make sense of the story, predict, summarize
Motivation—willingness and eagerness to hear books read aloud
Having books in the home means that parents and/or caregivers can re-read favorite books. How many of you know of a child, maybe a grandchild, who will “pretend” read their favorite book? Magic, isn’t it? Children model the behaviors they see at home and having adults and older children read with them is crucial. And to create that magic, we must get the books in the home.
And yet, sixty-one percent of low-income families have no books in their homes at all!
The Imagination Library books are selected by specialists in child development, reading, and children’s literature. These are books that are good for children, and books that they might not encounter otherwise. Good books—good literature—is healthy food for the brain. Here’s what Jim Trelease had to say, in his classic The Read Aloud Handbook: “Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children’s books actually contain 50% more unique words than primetime television or even college students’ conversations.” 3.
Fifty percent more unique words! Playful words like “cattywampus” and “ker-splat”. Educational words like “triceratops” or “tarantula”. Every good children’s author knows that words that are read aloud need to be the best words—words that are fun to say, words that get the gears turning. Words that fire up the imagination!
Since early literacy is so crucial, and having books in the home makes such a difference, what is holding parents back? Some parents don’t know how to choose age appropriate books. And sadly, there are a lot of poor choices out there—media tie-ins, books of poor quality. Some parents can’t access the library. Maybe they don’t drive. Maybe they have no funds for books. Maybe they just don’t know how.
The Imagination Library is so simple for parents—register. That’s all! The books are shipped every month, directly to the child. No fee, no driving, no hassle. Just a brand new, age appropriate, adventure every month. Brilliant!
Imagination Library truly is the bargain of the century! Just $2.10 per child per month; that’s $25 per participant for the whole year. That includes the book, processing, and mailing. Twelve books a year mailed directly to the child from birth to age 5. And that includes a tip sheet for ways that parents and caregivers can interact with their child while reading the story and activities to extend the learning. So, we aren’t just educating the child, we’re educating the whole family.
Let me add a note about the interaction between the child and adult, because this is important to me. I call this the “Snuggle Factor” and you can read more about it on my website. 4. This is my own totally unscientific theory about learning to read. I believe that there is magic when a child snuggles up with a loving adult to hear a book read aloud. When I taught reading, I could tell who in my class was having those experiences at home and who was not. I had one little girl, April. This was in Arizona. Her grandmother was a Snowbird, spending the winters in Arizona. When the grandmother was there, reading and playing with April, she made huge gains in school. When the grandmother returned North, I could see the change.
Imagination Library is a great program and Eugene DPIL currently serves between 3,700 and 3,800 children, but there are 8,000 children in our library area. So, we need additional and ongoing funding to not only maintain, but to grow the program. We don’t want any child left out.
Every child in our community deserves the magic of books! “
1. Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S.,Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine,J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, H.A., Rodriguez, E. (2006). “Mother-child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life.” Child Development, 77(4).
- Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.
- The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.