Each month, Aleshyia Lagrone said her five children begin pestering her about when their books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are coming.

“They all get excited when it’s time for their books to arrive,” Lagrone, of Davenport, said Wednesday as her children, particularly her 4-year-old daughter AXarhyia, waited to be part of a special Imagination Library celebration with the United Way of the Quad-Cities Area.

Today, AXarhyia was lucky enough to receive the 1 millionth book that has come into the Quad-Cities since the local United Way partnered with Imagination Library in 2008.

“This program really helps children learn to read and to love reading,” Lagrone said. “It has been a blessing because my bookshelves would not be half as full without Imagination Library for the kids.”

Weather permitting, the kids will take their books and go out and sit on the curb under a nearby tree and read their books, Lagrone added.

AXarhyia’s book this month, the lucky 1 millionth, is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come.” It’s her final book from the program as she turns 5 next week and is old enough to enter kindergarten where she will have access to more books.

When the kids got their books, they opened them up and begin reading or asked Lagrone to read to them.

When asked if she enjoyed reading, AXarhyia was quick to respond. “Yes, I do. My favorite book is Cookie’s Week.”

AXarhyia was talking about the book about Cookie the cat by author Cindy Ward and illustrator Tomie dePaola.

Karrie Abbott, vice president of community impact said the program provides free books to children up to 5-years-old in Scott and Rock Island counties.

“We have 10,000 children enrolled in the program,” Abbott said. “That means that 10,000 free books are coming into the Quad-Cities each month for children to read.”

Abbott said she is amazed when she walks into kindergarten classes today and see children reading, and getting ready for lifelong education. “Kindergarten wasn’t like that when I was a child,” she said with a chuckle.

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But reading is the basic skill that leads to all other learning, she said.

“Up until third grade kids are learning to read,” Abbott said. “From third grade on they are reading to learn.”

Jeff Conyers, executive director of The Dollywood Foundation, thanked the United Way for working to get books into the hands of children.

“On behalf of Dolly and our team at the foundation, I want to thank you for making a tremendous impact on the lives of children and families in your community,” Conyers said.

Parents with children ages 5 or younger may sign up for the program at unitedwayqc.org.

Sponsoring a child to receive books for one year cost $30. Donations can be made at unitedwayqc.org/kidsbooks.

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