Thanks to a new program started by the United Way Women’s Initiative  and the Columbia Public Library , more Columbia preschoolers will have books in their homes at no cost to their families. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library  program was kicked off March 19 with a press conference at the Library. In its first year, the program seeks to reach 800 families with new babies, giving them a free book each month.
“The act of reading a book to a young child has a lasting impact,” said Karen Taylor, chair of the United Way Women’s Initiative Steering Committee. “We’re thrilled to be able to fuel the imagination of our area children as they prepare for school.”
A national program of the Dollywood Foundation, the initiative will begin sending books to registered newborns beginning in the late spring, and each child will continue to receive a free book every month until his or her 5th birthday. The Friends of the Columbia Public Library  have contributed $5,000 to purchase the first book, “The Little Engine That Could,” to be given to infants born at both Columbia Regional Hospital and Boone Hospital Center with a Columbia address. Once the program begins, any family with a new baby born in 2008 can register to begin getting free books tailored to the development level of their child.
Library Director Melissa Carr said “The Columbia Public Library and the Friends of the Library are excited about this opportunity to give more children an early start on literacy. Establishing an early love of reading will benefit them their whole lives.”