Tate Tupen, 4, pops a bubble during Lake Stevens Education Foundation’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Tate Tupen, 4, pops a bubble during Lake Stevens Education Foundation’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Party marks decade of free books for Lake Stevens kids

Singer Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library to promote reading to and with young children.

LAKE STEVENS — Books and bubbles took over Lundeen Park last week.

The Lake Stevens Education Foundation held a public celebration to mark a decade of sponsoring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for local families.

Children gathered around picnic tables laden with books, picking one or two to take home. There were colorful picture books: “Me and My Place in Space,” “Old Bear and His Cub,” “Extraordinary Jane.” Another table had books for older children, including collections about dinosaurs, ancient civilizations and the Wild West.

Out in the grass, kids used bubble-blowing wands to produce giant, shimmering bubbles, some large enough for a person to fit inside.

A sign reminded families to read or sing to children at least 20 minutes a day.

“It’s the most important 20 minutes of the day,” said Leslie Elsemore, chairwoman of a foundation committee that focuses on early learning.

The foundation started in 1993 and partners with the Lake Stevens School District.

Samantha Grospe helps her son Everett Grospe, 4, pick a book during Lake Stevens Education Foundation Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Samantha Grospe helps her son Everett Grospe, 4, pick a book during Lake Stevens Education Foundation Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Imagination Library is an international program founded by the famous country singer that provides free books to children from birth until their fifth birthday. The program relies on local partners to organize and fund affiliates. In Lake Stevens, that partner is the education foundation. It took over the effort about 10 years ago, with support from the local Rotary club.

Over the past 10 years, more than 3,000 children have received free books through Imagination Library in Lake Stevens. There are more than 540 enrolled now.

“We’ve been promoting reading with and to children, and a lot of kids have gotten a jump start for school because of that,” Elsemore said.

Britni Hansen attended the celebration with four of her children, ages 2 to 10. Tesila, Rockwell, Violet and Hatcher decorated cookies with white frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

Hansen’s older children received books through the Imagination Library. They kept those books, and she didn’t sign up the younger siblings because they already have a large collection of children’s stories.

When the family first moved to Lake Stevens, there wasn’t an Imagination Library for the area, Hansen said.

“I was so excited when they got it,” she said. “I was one of the parents waiting in line. We found some of our favorite books.”

Violet, 4, likes to list her plans for the next day when she goes to bed each night. That list always includes reading, Hansen said. Violet said her favorite story is “Snow White.”

Tesila Hansen, 10, creates a large bubble during Lake Stevens Education Foundation Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Tesila Hansen, 10, creates a large bubble during Lake Stevens Education Foundation Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebration on Sept. 21, 2018 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ann Reinhart watched daughter Sybella Burlingame, 8, run around the park with a friend from Girl Scouts.

Sybella is in third grade, but she’s reading at a sixth-grade level, Reinhart said. She credits time spent reading when Sybella was little. They looked forward to finding a book from the Imagination Library in the mail each month. Reinhart remembers that a story about llamas in pajamas was a hit.

Sybella has aged out of the Imagination Library, but she still reads at least a half-hour every day.

“I really like reading Magic Treehouse books, and I also like reading Ranger in Time,” she said. “I used to read those Biscuit books about Biscuit the dog.”

Other local communities that offer books through the Imagination Library include Arlington and Darrington, Monroe and Stanwood-Camano.

Join the Imagination Library

To sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Lake Stevens, go to https://imaginationlibrary.com/usa/affiliate/wasnohomish.

To donate or learn more, go to http://lkstevensef.org/parton.html. It costs about $25 to provide a year’s worth of books for a child.

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