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Literacy fund will provide books to children

Fitchburg, Mass. (May 20, 2016) – The North Central Massachusetts Literacy Endowment Fund is making a $2,500 grant to United Way of North Central Massachusetts’ Reading First initiative.

The money will be used to purchase books for children under five through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, which United Way manages through its Reading First initiative.  

The permanent literacy endowment fund, which is managed by the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, was created in 2000 by the Sentinel & Enterprise, which launched a series of initiatives to celebrate the new millennium as part of its Celebrate 2000 campaign. Major sponsors included Unitil, HealthAlliance Hospital and the former Fitchburg Mutual Insurance.

Carol Valianti, vice president/communications and public affairs for Unitil, served on the selection committee for the grant with Holly Conry from the Sentinel and Enterprise. “This is an important program that is making a difference by inspiring a love of reading in young people,” said Valianti.  

“Because in low income households, there is only 1 book per 300 households, this program is transformational,” said Conry.

“This grant will put 12 different, age-appropriate books, over the course of one year, in the hands of 64 children,” said Maribeth Janssens, director of community investment for United Way of North Central Massachusetts. According to Janssens, research has found that when children have numerous age-appropriate books in the home, they do better in school.

United Way of North Central Massachusetts has signed up more than 2,000 children for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends the books to children in Ayer, Shirley, Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton and Winchendon.   

Children in the specified towns, under the age of 5, are eligible to sign up — regardless of household income. Once registered, the child will receive an age-appropriate book each month until his/her 5th birthday. For more information, please visit www.uwncm.org.