By BEN ROWE
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Once a month, a book from the Imagination Library comes is delivered to 4-year-old Natalee Acors, and that’s a very special time for her.
“Every time she gets one, as soon as she gets it in the mail, we sit down and read it,” her mother, Haylee Brean, said.
Natalee is among 1,263 children younger than age 5 in Clinton, Franklin, Essex or Hamilton counties enrolled in the free program established by Dolly Parton and, locally, administered by the Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County.
Participating youngsters are mailed one age-appropriate book every month from birth until their fifth birthday.
The signup process is quick and simple, Program Coordinator Jocelyne Erkenbeck said, showing off the postcard-sized registration form.
No income information is required, and there is absolutely no cost, Literacy Volunteers Executive Director Norma Menard said.
“There is no hidden agenda, no other (aim) than to just get books into the hands of children,” she said.
With a total 8,551 eligible children in the four counties, about 7,000 more have yet to register, and Erkenbeck is working to close that gap.
‘HERE WE COME’
Joining the program can also help take one more task off a busy parent’s mind.
“It’s nice to have something you can let your child read and look at and not be concerned about the content,” Erkenbeck said.
The books are brand-new quality and selected by a national committee of educators and child behaviorists. Though a different book is sent every month, each child receives “The Little Engine That Could” first and “Kindergarten, Here We Come” as their final one.
“By having children excited already about books at a young age, imagine the difference when they enter kindergarten,” Menard said.
Along with the educational benefits, Erkenbeck said, the books also give parents the chance to sit down and read with their children, an important bonding time in the age of electronic toys.
The Charles R. Wood Foundation funds the program, with the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation helping to support Literacy Volunteers’ coordination of the effort.
As the children start to expect the packages every month, they also develop an important sense of ownership over their growing libraries, Erkenbeck said.
“One little child, when Mom was trying to open up the package, realized it was his and said, ‘No, no, no, that’s mine,’” she said.
Brean said reading with Natalee is helping develop her reading skills from an early age.
“I want her to be forward, not behind,” she said.
“Backward, you mean,” Natalee corrected her mother.
Then she began reciting the alphabet.
FREE CHILDREN'S BOOKS
To sign up a child for the Imagination Library, call 564-5332.
The Journey into Reading program also gives out free books to children, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at near Kay Jewelers at the Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh.
LITERACY TUTOR TRAINING
Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County is looking for volunteers to train as tutors to help teach basic literacy and reading.
No special skills are required. Training begins with orientation Tuesday, Feb. 4; basic-literacy training on Thursday, Feb. 6, and Tuesday, Feb. 11; and concludes with a session on successful tutoring skills on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Classes, all required, are from 2 to 5 p.m. in Room 049 in the basement of Hawkins Hall at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Tutors are paired up one-on-one with students and meet at least two hours a week. For information, call 564-5332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.