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End the Year with Cheer: Spreading the joy of reading

Who loves to read?!
Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 8:15 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s News Source is hoping to spread some good tidings through our End The Year With Cheer series.

Jackie Purcell came across a cherished photo of her dad reading a book to her, and that sparked her to try to inspire that same feeling in parents and kids across Alaska.

Reading is so important for our Alaska kids and Abbe Hensley knows that first-hand as executive director of Best Beginnings Alaska, an organization dedicated to early childhood development. Hensley says, “Reading kind of opens almost every window and door for a child and for an adult. And one of the quotes I really like comes from a children’s book author, Emily Buchwald, and she says readers are made on the laps of their parents, and to me, that really says it all.”

Best Beginnings partners with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to distribute books to children from birth to age 5. Twenty-seven Imagination Libraries across the state can reach parents and kids in 112 communities.

Hensley says, “Children who are enrolled in Imagination Library also did better in terms of being able to identify letters and numbers. A vast majority of parents say that children love getting the books and love being read to.”

Best Beginnings collaborated with Alaska Native authors and photographers for a four-book set about the seasons of the year. The authors included Yaari-Toolie-Walker, Angela Y. Gonzalez, Jonie Spiess, and Carla Snow.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, really just a few years ago for the very first time, recommended that parents read to their children really, from birth,” says Hensley.

If you are a parent with a child on the way and want to take part in the program, you can contact Best Beginnings, or if you want to help, you can donate to bestbeginnings.org.

Because of the pandemic, reading to kids, which Jackie enjoyed, is not possible, but she has recorded six books that parents and kids can access through Alaska’s News Source. They include the Best Beginnings books “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall” for young children and then two selections from local children’s author and artist Dianne Barske called “Mukluks for Annabelle” and “Two Bears There.”

Make 2021 a year to start great reading habits!

Editor’s note: The link to Best Beginnings was updated.

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