The playroom in Qetrina Swetlikoff’s house where her three boys, aged six, four, and one play is lined with books, and even the youngest son will sit quietly and look at his favourite tome for long periods.
These days, Khelben likes to show off the French books he is learning to read at school, but until he entered school, he would delight in the books he received in the mail every month.
The boys are part of a project sponsored by the Rotary Club of Mission (Sunrise) where up to 100 children receive a book a month for the first five years of their life from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1996 to improve literacy skills among young children in her native community in east Tennessee.
It was so successful that she added more communities, and in 2000, she made books available at low cost to any community in Canada and the U.S. which was able to partner with her foundation and finance it locally. Currently 1,600 communities have a champion who finances the program locally. Four years ago, the Rotary Club of Mission took on the project in a small geographical area of Mission.
The Swetlikoffs have been in the program since it started. Khelben was only two and Viktor was not yet born.
“The boys get excited when they get the mail each month,” says Qetrina. The whole family gets involved in reading the books — even the grandparents get some of the books to read to the children. She loves that the books are age-appropriate, and usually interesting to the boys. The baby books, she says, are sturdy and full of contrasting colours which appeal to babies. She also likes the rhyming and flow of many of the stories which cover a wide variety of topics.
Instilling a love of reading in youth through the Imagination Library, providing books to children’s programs throughout the community and supporting the school district’s Strong Start Program and summer camps are a few of the ways that the Rotary Club of Mission supports literacy in Mission.
On Oct. 5, the club is hosting a Harvest Dinner at the Anglican Church Hall to raise funds to support the program this year. Tickets are $35, and those bringing a children’s book or a donation of baby food for the Mission Community Services Food Centre will be entered into a prize draw. Supplies and food for babies are difficult to keep in stock at the Food Centre, so the funds raised will also be used to build up supplies. For tickets or information call 604-826-3687 or contact a member of the Mission Rotary Clubs.