April 25, 2018
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Literacy expert appeals to Machias Rotarians

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — When a child is read to, it enlivens their imagination, increases their vocabulary and stimulates their curiosity.

But the problem in Washington County is that 14 percent of all parents cannot read, and their children, missing the enrichment reading can bring, are starting school already behind.Eileen Campbell, director of Literacy Volunteers of Washington County and the Machias Adult Education program, said Washington County’s literacy rates mirror nationwide statistics: 28 percent of all adults cannot read and half of them are raising children.

Campbell appealed to the Machias Area Rotary Club on Tuesday night, seeking funding for a countywide Imagination Library program. The program operated for two years, funded through a Stephen King grant of $25,000, but the grant expired last June.

The program provided a new book each month for hundreds of county children under age 5. It was inspired by country singer Dolly Parton, who founded Imagination Library and has received support from more than 115 Rotary clubs across the country.

Campbell said that when children are provided with books, the desire to learn to read trickles up to their parents. She said there are 550 children on her project list right now but no books. She said the project costs $35 a year per child.

Campbell said that the Imagination Library project levels the playing field by ensuring that all children walk into kindergarten ready to learn.

“Once, it didn’t matter if you could read,” Campbell said. “You could read the stars. You could read a compass. You could read a chain saw.”

She said that today, 60 percent to 70 percent of the prison population is illiterate, and 60 percent of Americans cannot read a bus schedule. “Without a literate population, our entire economic status is at risk,” she said.

The Machias Area Rotary donated $250 toward the program.


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