Two new programs to promote literacy


In a recent editorial (“The Critical Importance of Reading,” Oct. 23), Dr. Coby Fletcher, superintendent of Escanaba Area Public Schools, emphasized the importance of nurturing reading skills in children, beginning at a very young age. He is absolutely right.

According to the “Kids Count in Michigan” report published earlier this year by Michigan League for Public Policy, nearly half of third graders in Delta County are not proficient in reading. Research shows that kids who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are more likely to struggle throughout the rest of their academic years and more likely to drop out of school.

To help develop literacy skills, foster a love of reading and increase access to books for local families, this year the United Way of Delta County launched two new literacy programs: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Little Free Libraries.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is for children under age five and is free to Delta County families. Parents may register all children under age five, and are encouraged to register them as early as birth so they can have a personal library of up to 60 books by the time they enter kindergarten. Registered children receive a new, age-appropriate book in the mail once a month until they turn five. United Way introduced the program in April and within two weeks had registered 450 children. Today there are more than 700 children registered, with more coming on board each month. Parents can register their children at or by contacting the United Way of Delta County at 786-3736 or

Readers of all ages are invited to share books through another popular program, Little Free Libraries. The United Way of Delta County has partnered with Friends of the Library in both Escanaba and Gladstone to place seven Little Free Library boxes throughout Delta County. The premise is simple: “Take a Book, Leave a Book.” It’s a great way to pass along a book after you’ve finished reading it and to find great new reads. Little Free Libraries can include children’s books, novels, young adult literature, travel guides, poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

These new programs reflect the United Way of Delta County’s commitment to impact our community not only by supporting the programs of our nonprofit partner agencies, but also by making education a priority and investing some of our resources accordingly.

I applaud Dr. Fletcher’s efforts to encourage early literacy skills and lifelong reading, and hope the United Way’s new programs can make it easier for Delta County families to do just that.

Julie Mallard

Executive Director

United Way of Delta County