2020 was a lousy year in so many respects. As we reflect on the year, it’s easy to dwell on the bad and talk about all the challenges that came with the year. Instead, we choose to celebrate. 2020 wasn’t easy, but it sure did have some bright spots at Best Beginnings.
17,450 Alaska children under 5 are finding a new, age-appropriate, high-quality book in their mailbox every month. This gift is made possible through a partnership of local volunteers, businesses, foundations, individual donors, the State of Alaska, the Dollywood Foundation, and Best Beginnings.
Children who participate in Imagination Library have a higher probability of being ready for kindergarten, according to preliminary results of a statewide study conducted by Education Northwest.
Our Book Bundle project provided a box of 12 books to 56 children living in communities without an Imagination Library this year alone. Besides putting books in the hands of young children and their families, we hoped another result would be more Imagination Library programs. Sure enough, Bethel, Mountain Village, Ketchikan, and Kodiak are now on board!
The Library of Congress recognized Best Beginnings for “outstanding contributions to the promotion of literacy and reading in the community and the state.” The 2020 Library of Congress State Literacy Awards were given to only 10 programs across the country through a competitive process.
We published our Seasons of Alaska board book series in February. The books were written by four Alaska Native women (first-time authors) who were supported by editor Tricia Brown throughout the writing process. Alaska Native photographers provided the beautiful photos that inspired the authors. We gave away 5,000 sets to Head Start and Early Head Start programs, early care and learning programs, home visiting programs, and more organizations serving young children.
Seasons of Alaska is enjoying some major spotlight:
- Dr. Debbie Reese just highly recommended the Seasons of Alaska series on her American Indians in Children’s Literature blog and added the series to her list of best of 2020 books.
- Indian Country Today featured our authors and their books on their nationwide Thanksgiving Day broadcast.
- The Alaska Center for the Book recognized Best Beginnings as a co-recipient, along with Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), of the Sue Sherif Literacy Award for excellence in early childhood literacy. “Both SHI’s Baby Raven Reads series and Best Beginnings’ Seasons of Alaska series highlight indigenous themes and Alaska Native authors, illustrators, and photographers, with the goals of encouraging young children to become readers, allowing Alaska Native children to see their cultures depicted accurately, and improving cross-cultural understanding.”
- Seasons of Alaska, the authors, and Best Beginnings’ Abbe Hensley will be featured on KTUU, Channel 2 on Monday, December 28, and on Native America Calling on Tuesday, December 29, at 9am on KNBA 90.3.
- There are copies available at Title Wave Books, and Best Beginnings is fulfilling orders locally through Amazon.
Anchorage Imagination Library launched a new recycling program with Title Wave Books. Over 900 gently loved Imagination Library titles have been donated back to Best Beginnings, and lovingly distributed at mobile food pantries, gift giveaways, and neighborhood little free libraries.
We created dozens of new Pinterest boards featuring companion activities to titles from Imagination Library that families can do at home, and continued to share them along with fabulous resources in our weekly parent newsletter serving thousands of Alaska families.
Anchorage children and their parents gave rave reviews to the first ever weeklong Little Learners virtual camps offered by Best Beginnings this summer!
The 6th Annual First Ladies’ Tea was very different this year. Instead of sipping tea and enjoying lovely tea cakes and other goodies donated by co-hosts, it was a drive-through fundraising event, with a special First Ladies’ Tea mask for everyone. First Lady Rose Dunleavy was there to greet guests, and she very graciously posed for photos with tea guests and a life-sized Dolly Parton cutout.
Many thanks to everyone who helped us find the bright spots in 2020! And Happy New Year!