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Community & Business

14 May, 2023

Imagination Library continues to be a hit

Gilgandra’s participation in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) is set to continue with the council agreeing that the benefits of the program warrant continual funding.

By Andrew Tarry - Local Government Reporter

Gilgandra’s participation in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) is set to continue with the council agreeing that the benefits of the program warrant continual funding. This decision may come as a boost for those parents who currently have their children enrolled in the program.

Recent research data shows that early exposure to literacy for young children, especially before starting school, is essential for the development of reading and writing capabilities. The argument put forward by council when deliberating over the merits of the program was that the program “encourages families to read to their babies from birth, building the bonding, brain development and language skills they need”.

The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library early literacy project champions this idea through its program. The objective of the program is to deliver the gift of a book each month to children between ages one to fiveyears- old who are enrolled in the program. For example, if a child is enrolled from when they are born to when they turn five, they will have received a book a month, 12 books a year, 60 books over five years.

Each book is a gift for the child to own in an effort for each child to possess their own small library. Established in 1995 in Tennessee (where Dolly Parton was born) the Dolly Parton Imagination Library quickly spread across the United States until it was launched in Canada in 2006, followed by the United Kingdom in 2007, Australia in 2013 and the Republic of Ireland in 2019. The program started in Gilgandra in 2021 when it was selected as one of 25 NSW local governmente areas (LGAs) to be funded by the state government.

 Other LGAs that are participating in the program include: Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Central Darling, Coonamble, Cowra, Narromine, Tamworth and many more.

According to the meeting brief provided to the council, “the selection was based on combined socio-economic and childhood development data including the Australian Early Developmental Census and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) Index”.

SEIFA is a product developed by the ABS that “ranks areas in Australia according to relative socio-economic advantage or disadvantage. The indexes are based on the information from the five-yearly census of population and housing.”

Gilgandra rated as the 15th most disadvantaged of the 128 LGAs in NSW on these combined indexes. The government funds and facilitates various programs of this kind, especially for areas that are ranked as socioeconomically disadvantaged through libraries, schools, and even sometimes directly to households.

After initiating the program in 2021 the Gilgandra council made it eligible for children residing in the shire from January 1, 2022. As of April 12, 2023, 61 babies are currently enrolled. Under the funding scheme the state government created to cover the cost of the Imagination Library in 2021, enrolled children will receive the book a month up to June 30, 2024. Provided that a child has been enrolled for the entire two years, they should have 24 books by the end of the program.

As the number of enrolments (61) in Gilgandra is seen as a positive and productive uptake of the program, the council has made the decision to continue funding the program beyond the June 2024 date. This will allow continued use for the initiative by parents and children already enrolled, while giving the opportunity for new enrolments to gain a considerable material benefit were they to enrol close to that initial June 2024 end date. Enrolment in the program is relatively simple.

The council have outlined the process with the following statement: “at the first baby health check, the local community and family health nurse provides the option for parents to register, [the nurse will] provide the form and presents the baby with their first book. From approximately two months following this appointment, they receive the gift of a book each month in the mail.

The library is the local contact point for enquires and its role is to input the registration information into the Dolly Parton Imagination Library book ordering system, and to approve the registrations that parents complete themselves, online.” Since April 2021 the project has been delivered through a partnership between United Way Australia (who administer the project with DPIL), Gilgandra Shire Library and Western NSW Local Health District.

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