‘Books from Birth’ provides books to children free until age 5

‘Books from Birth’ provides books to children free until age 5

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For nearly 15 years, the state of Tennessee has helped provide books to every child for the first five years of their lives.

Books from Birth has a program in every Tennessee county, with Shelby County as the largest.

But still, many parents don’t know about the option.

The month, 47,000 books were sent out to Shelby County children ages zero to five.

"It tells me that there is hope for the future," Governor's Books from Birth Foundation Vice President Dean Hoskins said. "Those parents and caregivers really care that their children have every opportunity to succeed."

The book donations are possible because of the Shelby County branch of Books From Birth, sometimes better known as Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Fifty percent of the cost of the books come from the Governor's Books From Birth Foundation. The other half is from community partners and fundraising.

In Shelby County, Books from Birth has recently partnered with Porter-Leath, a local child services agency.

It's been more than 20 years since this kind of program got off the ground.

"People still wonder, 'oh we have the Imagination Library? I haven't heard of this,'" Hoskins said.

Tuesday at Porter-Leath, state senators and representatives, political candidates, and community advocates educated themselves on what the program does.

Porter-Leath was even gifted a $200,000 check from International Paper. A portion of the gift will help buy the books.

Those who work the closest with this program said the goal is to get children ready to read by kindergarten, and have them reading with proficiency by third grade.

"That means they're going to make that transition on how to read to reading to learn," Porter-Leath Vice President Rob Hughes said.

The group's goal is to have 75 percent of Tennessee's third graders reading proficiently by 2025.

"A child at third grade who does not read proficiently is 70 percent more likely to be incarcerated before the age of 18," Hoskins said. "They're three to four times more likely to drop out of high school."

Right now, that number is at 34 percent.

To learn more about Books from Birth, click here.

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