DEARBORN — On Tuesday, Mayor Abdullah Hammoud announced a new partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and the Amity Foundation to provide free books to all Dearborn kids from birth to age 5.
The Imagination Library mails more than 1.8 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age 5.
The popular book gifting program will be funded through a nearly $2.8 million endowment secured by Hammoud during his tenure as a state representative and will be administered by the Amity Foundation, the city said.
In a live-streamed speech on Tuesday from the children’s section of the Henry Ford Centennial Library, Hammoud touted the transformative potential of early literacy as a tool for both youth development and public policy.
“This program is also a critical policy intervention for a critical time,” Hammoud said, citing the proportion of Michigan third graders reading below grade level. “These books are fuel for burning curiosities, fuel for imaginations that will lead to better grades, higher lifetime earnings and healthier, more meaningful lives.”
“We’re proud to serve as a local champion of the Imagination Library because we know it will transform lives, and that’s what our work at the Amity Foundation is all about,” Amity Foundation Co-Founder Danielle Elzayat said.
As a local champion, the Amity Foundation will help administer the program operations, ensuring families receive books in a timely and efficient manner, and is working with the Hammoud administration to promote and facilitate resident participation.
“We worked tirelessly with Mayor Hammoud and the Dollywood Foundation to turn this ambitious idea into reality, and we’re proud to play a role in putting books in the hands of families in every corner of Dearborn,” Amity Foundation Founder Amad Elzayat added.
These books are fuel for burning curiosities, fuel for imaginations that will lead to better grades, higher lifetime earnings and healthier, more meaningful lives. — Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud
Flanked by a life-sized cut-out of Dolly Parton, Hammoud noted that by a child’s fifth birthday, they can amass up to 60 books at no cost to parents or city residents.
The books are “60 unique opportunities for language-rich interactions that build empathy, strengthen family bonds and catapult kids to early success in kindergarten and beyond,” he said. The program allows parents of eligible children to order one free book per month per child until the child turns 5-years-old.
The announcement featured Dearborn Youth Services Supervisor Susan Jelic.
“It is vital to provide opportunities for the youth of our community to read, write, sing, talk and play their way to literacy; these are the five practices of the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read program,” Jelic said. “That’s what this initiative does.”
Residents who wish to order books should visit www.imaginationlibrary.com and enter their zip code.
All four Dearborn zip codes — 48120, 48124, 48126 and 48128 — are now live and eligible. Once a zip code is selected, users will be prompted to enter basic information to determine eligibility.
In the coming weeks, the city of Dearborn will also roll out more specific sign-up information in both English and Arabic.
Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has gifted well over 150 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Parton envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The program’s impact has been widely researched, and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com.