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Kindergarteners are first graduates from Dolly Parton program

 

September 12, 2017

Photos by Sean C. Morgan TOM YAHRAES, a Rotarian and superintendent of Sweet Home schools, reads “Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten” Saturday morning at the Public Library.

As he prepared to read “Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten” to a group of Sweet Home children Saturday morning at the Sweet Home Public Library, Schools Supt. Tom Yahraes explained the superiority of books to television.

A TV program does all of the thinking for its viewers, he said. Details are presented, and nothing is left to the imagination. With a book, readers must imagine what a character looks like, the reader must think, sharpening the mind.

Along with Police Chief Jeff Lynn, Yahraes read to 10 children Saturday as the Sweet Home Rotary Club celebrated the graduation of kindergarten children from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.

Sweet Home Rotary President Brittany Donnell presented certificates to four children who were entering kindergarten and no longer eligible for the program. Lynn presented a book and Yahraes greeted and shook hands with each of them: Kylee Crawford, Lael Watkins, Hayden Van Cleave and Weston Olson-Saunders.

Those children, four of 36 in the Sweet Home area, also received their final monthly book from the program. Lynn read the book, “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.”

The Friends of the Library purchased the final book for those children.

The program is open to all children up to age 5, said Dr. Larry Horton, retired schools superintendent. “This is a very, very positive thing for us to do.”

Saturday, the club recognized the Rotary Club’s “first graduating class,” he said.

About two years ago, the Rotary Club was prioritizing its goals. Their No. 1 priority became helping young children, and “early literacy became a driving force in our club,” Horton said.

“We know the value of reading. If kids aren’t reading by third grade, there is a high correlation who finishes high school.”

The program provides one free book per month to each registered child. Each book includes questions and activities so parents and children can actively engage in the story together.

“This not only promotes better reading skills, it strengthens the parent-child bond,” Horton said. “Research is showing that these children are entering kindergarten with much higher reading skills than their peers who have not participated in the program.”

Central Linn School District has been using the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for five years, Horton said, and its children have the highest test scores in the county as they enter kindergarten.

The Rotary Club partnered with the United Way of Linn County and donors to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Sweet Home, Horton said. The Rotary clubs of Linn County provided about $68,000. The United Way provided about half of the total $180,000 required to fund the program countywide for the past year.

In Sweet Home, 183 children were registered during the first year of the program, Horton said. Children may register at unitedwayoflinncounty.org.

Horton specifically praised Greg Rowe, former executive director of the United Way of Linn County, for bringing the program to Linn County and Sweet Home.

The Rotary Club has received a grant to pay for its portion of the program for another two years, he said.

“I just want to make sure kids have as much going into this complicated world as they can have,” Horton said. “We’re hoping that it continues for a long time.”

 
 

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