Editorial Roundup: Kentucky

Ashland Independent. May 20, 2024.

Editorial: Literacy programs vital

Sometimes all it takes is a tiny nudge in the right direction for a big idea to become reality.

That is exactly what happened four years ago when local mother and Franklin County Schools board member Jennifer Kantner was watching a newscast about the Kentucky legislature allocating funding for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and asked her husband why the program didn’t exist in Frankfort. His reply, “Go start it.” So she did.

The local affiliate, Imagination Library of Frankfort, was formed in 2021. The program provides books — free of charge — for children from birth until the age of 5 when they can start kindergarten.

Children enrolled in the Imagination Library of Frankfort receive a new book via mail every month, regardless of the family’s income. The first book each kids receives is “The Little Engine that Could.” The final book they get is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!”

The Imagination Library negotiates wholesale pricing for the books, but local affiliates are responsible for securing funds to cover the cost of the books as well as shipping fees.

Consistent sponsorship from Frankfort Regional Medical Center, the Franklin County Fiscal Court, the City of Frankfort, businesses and individuals keeps the program free for participants. Additionally, the Kentucky legislature provides dollar match funding where affiliates raise 50% and the state matches 50%.

In the two years since the Frankfort affiliate sent its first book, more than 26,000 books have been mailed to Franklin County kids. Currently, 1,963 children participate in the program locally.

Imagination Library of Kentucky has 132 programs covering portions of 118 counties. Approximately 36% of preschoolers statewide are enrolled in the Imagination Library.

That is a big deal in Kentucky. State-funded preschool education programs are available for all 4-year-olds whose family income is no more than 160% of the federal poverty level and all 3- and 4-year-old children with identified disabilities, regardless of income.

Until the Kentucky lawmakers pass universal Pre-K — which allows any family who wants to enroll their preschool-aged child in a publicly-funded, pre-kindergarten care and education program — free programing like Imagination Library of Frankfort and the numerous activities and events hosted by the Paul Sawyier Public Library are vital to our children’s development.

As the first graduates of the Imagination Library of Frankfort age out of the program, we commend Kantner and all involved in bringing it into fruition. We encourage those interested in donating to or wanting more information about the program to visit imaginationlibrary.com/usa/affiliate/KYFRANKLIN/