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Kids Can Fly program reaches milestone achievement

Local NewsKids Can Fly program reaches milestone achievement

Kids Can Fly celebrated it’s 250,000th book sent out to the community through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library on Friday, January 5, 2024.

The event took place at Kidtastic Adventures and featured a visit from Peppa Pig, a cake cutting, story time and more.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program is a book gifting program where children under five are provided with a free book every month.

“They receive a free book in the mail once a month until they turn five, and it’s meant to promote early literacy connections between children and their parents or caregivers,” said Becca McLellan, Executive Director of Kids Can Fly.

McLellan noted that providing children with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy has many benefits.

“Books are one of the best forms of multimedia for developing brains. Early language experience and being read to, has a proven impact on your spoken vocabulary and learning outcomes,” she said. “We’ve been able to track learning outcomes through the Dollywood Foundation about how kids who participate in the Imagination Library, fare in elementary school compared to children who didn’t have that opportunity. … A lot of the kids who are here today are talking about how they were on the program when they were younger and how it affected their imagination, their creativity and their learning outcomes today.”

Kathy Kemp, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library local Program Coordinator, reads a book to several children during the Imagination Library’s 250,000 book celebration on Friday, January 5, 2024.

The Imagination Library was first established within the community in 2010 and since then, the charity has distributed over 250,000 books to children in both the City of Brantford and the County of Brant and has raised over $900,000 for the program.

McLellan later thanked SC Johnson, Donn Zver Pottery, the City of Brantford and the Brant Community Foundation for their contributions.

“All of these donors work together, along with hundreds of individual donors, to support this program. It is pricey to run as a collective as our costs are over $10,000 a month, but it’s worth it because of the amount of impact that we have on early literacy in this community,” said McLellan. “We are constantly fundraising, and we are currently trying to raise $16,000 to get every child on the waitlist onto the program.”

David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, and Richard Carpenter, Councillor for the City of Brantford, pose with a cardboard cutout of Dolly Parton during the Imagination Library’s 250,000 book celebration on Friday, January 5, 2024.

During the event, both David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, and Richard Carpenter, Ward Four councillor for the City of Brantford, were present to bring greetings from each of the elected councils.

“On behalf of the Mayor, and the council for the City of Brantford, I would like to congratulate Kids Can Fly. It’s important to read to our children and to get our children reading,” said Carpenter. “A lot of kids are online or on the internet, and not reading as much as they like to, so having a physical book, or even a digital book means a lot and it’s just fantastic.”

David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, and Kathy Kemp, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library local Program Coordinator, cut into a cake during the Imagination Library’s 250,000 book celebration on Friday, January 5, 2024.

Kingsley McLellan, 13, received 48 books during her time with the Imagination Library and said that she had fond memories of the program.

“I don’t remember too much because I was little, but I remember that there was a tiger book that my dad and I got to read together multiple, multiple times and I really liked that,” she said.

Kathy Kemp, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library local Program Coordinator, said that she got involved with the organization after she had received a subscription to the program when her third son was born.

Kathy Kemp, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library local Program Coordinator, gathers several kids for story time during the Imagination Library’s 250,000 book celebration on Friday, January 5, 2024.

Wesley, now ten, also happens to be the first child in the city who was registered with the program from the time he was born.

“I got 60 books, and my favourite was “The Little Engine That Could.”

He said that the program helped him in a time of need.

“I really liked it because I was having seizures from epilepsy and it kind of helped me get through that too,” he said.  

His mother also noted that it provided an opportunity for her two older sons to get involved with reading as well.

“Our older sons didn’t love reading but when Wesley became part of the program, all of a sudden, they were excited to read to him,” she said. “They may have been baby books, but they had this newfound excitement.”

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