Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- "Llama Llama likes to sing. Gilroy laughs at everything," read Jennifer Sordoni. She and her husband, Bill, were front and center Thursday for children's story time at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre. The co-chairs of United Way of Wyoming Valley's latest fundraising campaign read the book "Llama Llama and The Bully Goat". It's one of the books available for free to kids in the Wyoming Valley who register for a newly launched program called Imagination Library. "This is really a characteristic of a change in the organization where we're moving from pure fundraising and distribution to actually investment," said United Way of Wyoming Valley Chairman of the Board Carl J. Witkowski.
The program mails a free book per month for newborn to 5-year-old kids to keep. Ann Marie Devanney of Wilkes-Barre was the first parent to register. She signed up her 1-year-old daughter, Alli, and 3-year-old son, Caleb. "We found that already he has a love of books and my daughter is coming to love books, too, even though she's still little. So it's just literacy is foundational and we want to promote that in our family." Raven Gettings of Wilkes-Barre signed up her 10-month-old daughter, Maleah, for a head start in literacy. "Just teach her. Help her learn more. You know, more words. Make her smart."
The program is open to all incomes. Organizers hope it is transformational for children who live in poverty. While the Imagination Library program is free to registered children, it does cost money to buy the books. United Way of Wyoming Valley has managed to raise $100,000 -- enough to enroll 800 children in the program. "If we can get books in the hands every year birth to five of 800 to 1,100 families, we believe that that in itself and that momentum will make this sustainable over the years," said Mr. Witkowski.
To enroll a child under age 5 who lives in the Greater Wyoming Valley area in the Imagination Library, contact Miriam Bakewell, UWWV Community Impact Manager at 570-829-6711, extension 232. Registration forms are also available at the Osterhout Free Library at 71 S. Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.