United Way of Racine County through the national Imagination Library will make available starting this summer one free book per month to every child under 5 throughout eastern Racine County.

Children living in zip codes 53403 and 53405 were already eligible, and with the addition of 53108, 53177, 53404 and 53406, all kids east of I-94 can now participate. Here’s how it works: parent register their children by visiting http://www.unitedwayracine.org/il. Then, every month until the child turns five (graduates), they will receive an age-appropriate book in the mail so their parents can read to and with them.

Imagination Library was founded in 1996 by country superstar Dolly Parton in order to spark a love of reading in every child, according to the the United Way website.

Joanee Meyerhofer told The Journal Times that Imagination Library gives parents the opportunity to help prepare their kids for kindergarten.

“(It’s) building a really solid foundation for kids from the beginning,” she is quoted as saying. “Reading at home is essential for the development of young children and parents are the first and greatest teachers.”

Families living in 53403 and 53405 have been participating since last year; with the expanded availability, the potential number of children served could go well north of 2,000, the story continues. Books are chosen by a panel of experts and include tips for parents to positively impact brain development critical before age 5.

Eligibility in the new zip codes officially begins June 25, and United Way is hosting a special kick-off event that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Regency Mall. The first 500 children to enroll will receive an advance copy of their first book and a literacy kit.

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