October 26, 2021

BOOK YOUR BOOKS: Kids under age 5 in Jasper County can sign up for free, monthly literature

‘Books For Little Friends’ gets its stock from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Sheila Bower remembered how happy her twins were to receive their free books in the mail every month until they turned 5 years old. It was a program through United Way that Bower said was similar to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program where kids get one free book a month until kindergarten.

“My kids loved going to the mailbox and having mail,” Bower said. “Yeah, Grandma sent them birthday cards, but to get a book?”

Now, Bower’s kids are in their 20s, but the impact that program had on them was something she felt was special. As a member of the Friends of the Newton Public Library organization, Bower wanted to see Dolly Parton’s program thrive in Jasper County libraries.

Under the name Books For Little Friends, the program will allow kids under age 5 in Jasper County to enroll for one free book each month. Books For Little Friends received $15,000 to kickstart its program, which operates through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The Jasper, Marion, Poweshiek Early Childhood initiative provided a $5,000 grant while Jasper Communication Foundation pledged $10,000 for the program to begin operations. Friends of the Newton Public Library are the nonprofit sponsoring the program.

Books For Little Friends will launch its registration event 4-7 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Newton Public Library.

Membership forms will be made available online and can also be filled out during the launch event, which will feature free frozen treats from Sea Turtle Ice Cream Company. Rita Baker, president of the Friends of Newton Public Library, hopes other local entities can contribute to the program’s longevity.

“Going forward we hope to find businesses or churches or individuals who will contribute on a regular basis,” Baker said.

Phyllis Peter, youth services librarian at Newton Public Library, stressed the importance of reading and early childhood development. It’s so important, Peter said, for parents to read to their children every day. Peter is excited to have a program like this in Jasper County.

“Access to books is so important, too,” she said. “Of course you can come to the library and get a library card, but families are busy and life happens. To have a book arriving in the mail that mom or dad or whoever the adult is in their house sit down and read that book to that child that night is great.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.