(Shreveport, LA) – In lieu of participating in Read Across America Day, United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA) donated 10 sets of books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) to a local head start program or child-care centers in each of the 10 parishes they serve. The receiving centers are Benton Head Start Center, Brown E. Moore Head Start, Breda Town Center, Red River Head Start, Universal Pre-Kindergarten, Humpty Dumpty Head Start, Bienville Head Start Center, STC Mansfield Head Start, Life’s Little Blessings, and Webster Parish ABC Head Start Center. In addition to UWNWLA’s book donations for Read Across America, the organization is also planning to extend their promotion of reading all month long through DPIL.

For the past two years, on March 2, UWNWLA has organized groups of volunteer readers to participate in Read Across America Day, celebrating Dr. Suess’s birthday and advocating the importance of reading to young children. Each volunteer is sent to a Caddo or Bossier Parish elementary school to read a Dr. Suess book and provide fun activities for the students that encourage reading. Due to COVID-19 and new school regulations, UWNWLA could not hold the traditional event this year. However, the organization is still working to provide the tools needed to improve early childhood education.

Through United Way’s DPIL program, one book is delivered directly to children’s homes each month. If a child is enrolled in the program at birth, they will own a library of 60 books by the time they enter kindergarten, all at zero cost to the child’s family. To continue raising awareness on the importance of reading this year, UWNWLA is leveraging this program by sending books across the region.

“There is a critical and ongoing need to increase and improve the quality of early education for children in our region,” said LaToria Thomas, Vice President of Community Investments & Operations. “Focusing our limited resources on children at the earliest stages of learning will give them the social and developmental skills they need to succeed in school and life. We are thrilled to be able to celebrate Read Across America Day by building up head start libraries and giving children the keys to success for a brighter future.”

Local data demonstrates that only fifty-two percent of children in Northwest Louisiana enter kindergarten prepared. By providing head start centers across 10 parishes with DPIL books, UWNWLA is helping the community’s youngest students foster a love for reading and prepare them for kindergarten success.

“Red River Parish School Board Head Start is so excited to be the recipient of this great donation,” said Christy Suggs, Read River Head Start Director. “Storybooks are essential for building a strong educational foundation. The more a child is exposed to books and read aloud to, the stronger their love for reading becomes. Books take you on trips to places our children may never get to see. They help develop concepts and relate our lessons in class to the outside world. We greatly appreciate this donation.”

UWNWLA serves Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, Desoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Webster, and Winn parishes. For more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and its availability in your area, please visit www.unitedwaynwla.org/dpil.