Community heroes: Imagination library encourages reading

OHSWEKEN – Through hard work and determination, the likelihood of more on-reserve children becoming skilled readers at an early age just went up.

Holly Frank, a personal support worker living on Six Nations, heard about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in 2014 and wanted to register one of her children. She was denied admission by the Kids Can Fly organization in Brantford because their funding did not reach beyond Brant County.

“I wanted to see my child reading at an early age,” said Frank. “I feel like one of the biggest reasons we have such troubled teenagers and children in Canada stems from their inability to read.”

The imagination library is a free subscription program founded by country music star Dolly Parton that parents register their children into soon after they are born. The child receives one book per month until they reach their fifth birthday.

“The program is designed to promote children’s literacy, kindergarten readiness and family bonding,” said Frank. “But I was told I couldn’t be a part of it unless the program was brought here to Six Nations.”

Frank found out that if she wanted to see the imagination library on Six Nations, there had to be a demand for it and she had to find sponsors, which meant scouting out other community members who were just as interested in it as she was.

“All of the costs in the early stages came out of my own pocket,” said Frank, who has invested more than one thousand dollars of her own money into the program.

“I hosted a community meeting, printed fliers and told everybody I ran into about it,” she said. “It was a slow start but eventually I found enough people to register their kids. Some generous sponsors came through and we launched in June last year.”

Every province in Canada except Newfoundland and Labrador has an imagination library operating on it and 40 per cent of all registered children across Canada are aboriginal. The imagination library on Six Nations has had 106 children register since June, but Frank wants to see at least 200 more added in 2016.

“It’s so easy to leave educating our children to the school system and not focusing on learning in the home,” said Frank. “Sometimes we as parents focus more attention on paying the bills, cleaning the house or cooking supper that we fail to see the value in literacy at an early age.”

Funding for 2016 has recently been approved by the Six Nations Community Trust Fund, although donations of any kind continue to be accepted and appreciated. What the Six Nations imagination library needs the most right now is a private sponsor. It costs $3 a month to cover registration costs per child — the members pay nothing, it all comes out of the library’s account.

“We really just need someone to take us under their wings and make sure we stay afloat,” said Frank. “It’s like any non-profit organization, we need help.”

Frank couldn’t have gotten this far without help from her committee and son, 20-year-old Cole Squires.

“The team does so much, it’s definitely not just me,” said Frank. “Everybody helps and looks for different ways to fundraise or promote and help keep things documented and accounted for.”

The Two Row Times is proud to continue our Community Heroes series. Community Heroes focuses on an individual volunteer or a volunteer organization in the Six Nations community that makes a difference. If you would like to nominate a community hero for our February edition, drop a line to Two Row Times reporter Jayson Koblun at with “Community Heroes” in the subject line.

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