Suppose you gave a party and everyone came …

…and brought along a few of their friends? Oh, you’d be happy. You’d feel valued, appreciated, and thrilled. But you’d also be worried. Will there be enough food? Will there be enough room? Will everyone have a good time?

That’s the story of Anchorage Imagination Library. It’s growing and growing and growing, and the original handful of volunteer organizers are getting overwhelmed. They are incredibly dedicated, but they need help.

Consider the task: there are 21,000 children under the age of 5 in Anchorage. If they all received books (at a cost of $30 annually), that would come to $630,000 a year. That’s more than the total budgets of many nonprofit organizations.

Granted, no community ever enrolls 100% of their children. With moves and children aging-out on their 5th birthday, it just never happens. But already, Anchorage has upwards of 5,200 children registered.

In order to be funded by Best Beginnings, Imagination Libraries in Alaska must demonstrate they have volunteers to cover the five tasks required for sustainability:

  • Enrollment
  • Database maintenance
  • Post office interface
  • Family engagement activities
  • Fund raising

In a small village, five volunteers can handle all five tasks. The sheer numbers in Anchorage require a much larger volunteer force and more fund raising results. The steering committee needs more members – people with the expertise to coordinate such a large effort, the connections and wherewithal to raise significant funds – experienced volunteers not intimidated by the prospect of success.

UAA researchers recently conducted their second-year evaluation of Imagination Library. In the surveys taken prior to enrollment – before a single book had been mailed – 7.3% of Anchorage households did not have a single children’s book in the home. We know that access to books and being read to are crucially important in terms of kindergarten readiness and ultimate school success. Imagination Library is special; it brings the books right into the home. Activity sheets for each title help engage the parents.

The foundation of Imagination Library is that it is free to all eligible children. Anchorage has had wonderful support from The Children’s Hospital at Providence and Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation, which are enrolling and funding their newborns. And United Way of Anchorage and Alaska Ski for Women are providing donations. But all the other enrolled children – and the children that grow out of being newborns – need to be covered. It takes only $30 per year per child, but that money needs to be raised. Otherwise, it becomes a program that once gave books to children but doesn’t anymore.

Anchorage Imagination Library needs your help. It needs your skills, your expertise, your dollars, and your support. We know you’re out there. Please contact Laura Cisneros, 297-3309, and she’ll make sure your offer of help gets to the right place.

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