Imagination Library receives gifts

Imagination Library received $25,000 in the form of two anonymous gifts.

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Generosity of Winkler and area residents, during this Christmas season, has allowed the Winkler Imagination Library to increase the number of children receiving the free monthly books, from 750 to 800 children. While they have received many, much appreciated, donations, two were especially remarkable.
The program was recently chosen to be the recipients of two large donations, $10,000 and $15,000 from two separate families, who have chosen to remain anonymous. In both cases, their children have benefitted from the program. They liked the idea that the books were available to any child in the community. One of the donors mentioned that they had noticed their child had an increased vocabulary, imagination, and enjoyment of books.
“This is a very timely donation”, says committee chair Joyce Sawatzky. The committee had been operating on a waiting list basis, which had grown to over 100 children, due to the popularity of the program. As the program has grown in the past four years, they have chosen to limit the number of registered children to 750, in order to sustain the project.
“We didn’t want to register more children than we could raise funds for, in one year.”
“Children were waiting on overage, 3-4 months to receive their first book, but recently, that wait would have grown to 5-6 months.”
This wait was too long for the local committee. “While all donations are very much appreciated, that is where these large donations will be focused,” says Sawatzky.
All of the children’s books come through the mail, individually addressed to any registered child, from birth to age five, who lives in the Garden Valley School Division catchment area. The money to fund the project is raised locally. The books are provided at a greatly reduced cost, through the Dollywood Foundation of Canada, but the community must raise funds to pay the monthly cost of the book and postage. The books are educator selected and age appropriate. The program is the brainchild of country music legend, Dolly Parton (the Book Lady) who started the program in 1995, in Sevierville, Tennessee, her home county. The program has become so popular, it is now available to all of the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. She dedicates the project to the memory of her late father, who was illiterate.
The program is a project under Winkler Family Resource Centre, who saw the value in the project and share their charitable status with the Winkler Imagination Library. Parents may register their children for the program through Baby First, Central Station, Regional Connections or GVSD school liaison workers. Brochures are also available in the literature rack in the foyer of South Central Regional Library, or Dr. CW Wiebe Medical Centre.
The Winkler Imagination Library committee, who are all current or retired teachers and school division employees, saw the need for more books in homes for preschool children in GVSD. This prompted them to begin the program in Winkler in 2014. GVSD is a huge supporter of the project, noticing the rise in literacy rates of children entering kindergarten. Children are being impacted by the success of the program. One thing they are noticing is that the books are being read by many more than just the preschoolers who receive the book. They are being read by all the children in the family, in some cases, the parents too, are using the books to practice their reading and English skills.
Since their launch in 2014, there have been 1,660 children enrolled. Some for the entire five years, others for a time, as they move out of the area. A child enrolled in the program from birth to age five will receive 60 books. Cost to run the project is between $3.50 – $4 per month per child, which includes the book and postage. Through these books, the committee, and their supporters, are hoping to change the future for many Winkler and area children and families.
Anyone wishing more information on the program or wishing to donate to Winkler Imagination Library can contact the committee through email at