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Study: Delta Reading Program Providing Educational Advantage

Posted on: April 7, 2014

INDIANOLA, Miss. – An early reading program in the Mississippi Delta is affording children here a distinct academic advantage as they head toward kindergarten and beyond, a new study shows.

Through the Imagination Library program, the Delta Health Alliance — in the fifth year of its partnership with the Dolly Parton Foundation — mails a free book each month to any participating family before their child turns five.  Currently, more than 850 Delta families are receiving books.

“Now, the results of a recent study are affirming that the Imagination Library program is giving children a leg up in their education,” said Karen Matthews, president and chief executive officer of the Delta Health Alliance (DHA). “When parents read to their kids at an early age, they are making an important investment in their educational success.”

Last fall, new kindergarten students at Lockard Elementary School in Indianola, Mississippi, were given a pre-reading and pre-math readiness assessment called the Measure of Academic Performance (MAP). As part of the kindergarten registration process, parents completed a survey that asked whether or not they participated in the Imagination Library program.

By comparing the MAP readiness scores of the group of children who received Imagination Library books with the group of children who didn’t, DHA found that, as a group, children who received those books were more likely to have stronger pre-reading and pre-math skills than the group of children who did not participate in the program.

Sixty-two percent of the students who were above the norm for the reading portion of the MAP test had participated in the Imagination Library program, compared to only 38 percent who did not participate.  In other words, a child who participated was twice as likely to be kindergarten ready in reading as a child who did not.

These differences were even more pronounced on the pre-math portion of the MAP assessment. Here, 71 percent of students who scored above the norm were Imagination Library participants, compared to only 29 percent of students who were not.  Imagination Library kids were two and a half times as likely to be kindergarten ready.

“These findings affirm the growing body of evidence that programs such as the Imagination Library, which support the early vocabulary development and pre-literacy skills of infants, toddlers, and young children, pay significant dividends that extend way beyond kindergarten,” said Matthews.

Shequite Johnson’s 2-year-old son, Derrick, is a program participant. She said that her son would rather have an Imagination Libary book each month than a toy truck. He already knows colors, can recite the alphabet and identify different fruits.

“We concentrate on one book a month until he’s almost memorized it; pointing out characters and identifying the relationships between those characters,” she said. “This is one of the most important things in the world. He’s building his imagination and thinking outside of the box.”