Tomorrow’s Promise Montessori School of Huntsville is raising local literacy rates with the help of The Dolly Parton Foundation.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partners with local communities to bring one age appropriate book per month to children from birth to age five. Books are provided for free through the Dolly Parton Foundation and shipping funds are raised by Tomorrow’s Promise, with no profit to the school. It costs $2.10 per month to have the books shipped to the child with a personalized mailing label.
“Some of these parents don’t know what to get at the library, or it’s closed by the time that they get off work. It’s just putting one more thing on parents to do,” Tomorrow’s Promise Montessori School director Kaye Boehning said.
Early childhood experts select age-appropriate books to be sent out to a child at different stages of their development, as most of a child’s learning taking place from birth to five years old.
“85-90% of all brain development takes place in the first five years of life, so you can raise or lower a child’s IQ by 25 points depending on what their early childhood experiences are,” Boehning said.
Beginning the program a year ago, Tomorrow’s Promise has “graduated” 43 children and currently sponsors 333.
Tomorrow’s Promise signed children up for the program at last year’s Fair on the Square, however due to limited funds, has not been able to further advertise the program for more kids to join.
In an effort to remove favoritism from limited spots in the program, Boehning does not offer Imagination Library to students at Tomorrow’s Promise as she said that as the director of the school, she knows her students are read to every day.
The same can not be said for all kids in the community, and donations are needed to sponsor children to be a part of the program.
If a child enrolls in the program at birth, they will come to have 60 age appropriate books in their home by the time that they turn five years old, the age at which a child will “graduate” from the program and begin kindergarten.
The Imagination Library helps get kids ready to begin school and on the same level as each other. If each student is on the same page academically, teachers are able to give equal attention to students instead of having to focus more on those who are struggling to catch up.
“They spend kindergarten, first and second learning how to read and after that it is reading to learn,” Boehning said. “You can’t do very well in school as a fifth grader if you can’t read the material, you can’t do very well as a seventh grader if you can’t read the material … and then who’s our juvenile delinquents? How many people in prison have to go back and try to learn how to read in order to get their high school diploma?”
Early childhood reading also helps with social engagement by helping kids have the mutual ground to spark a conversation with their peers over common books for their age.
“The percentage of kids looking at books on their own or asking to be read to goes up dramatically,” Boehning said and reported a 90% increase.
“Studies have shown that 20 books in the home makes a difference,” Boehning said, however in economically disadvantaged homes, there is statistically one book per 300 children.
According to the Texas Education Agency, 57.2% of kids come from economically disadvantaged homes in Huntsville ISD, often correlating to a disadvantaged education.
As of now, Tomorrow’s Promise spends about $699 per month on shipping for the 333 children they are currently sponsoring, however Boehning hopes to one day have every child in Huntsville signed up for the program.
“We need anybody and everybody, from $10 to $10,000…when we get to the point where we get everybody enrolled, we will be at $25,000 per year is what we estimate,” Boehning said.
Tomorrow’s Promise will be at Fair on the Square on October 5 in Downtown Huntsville for children to be signed up for the program and will be taking donations of any amount to continue sponsoring early childhood readers.