Inner city kids to receive one free book a month

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Children under the age of five in nine urban core neighborhoods soon will be able to get one new book a month to call their own. It's one of the chamber of commerce's "Big Five" goals, part of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative.

"Many of the children in our area live in under-resourced families," said Dianne Cleaver, executive director of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative. "So they don't have some of the things that many of us take for granted. Like access to books in their own home. If a child enrolls in Dolly Parton Imagination Library at birth and staying in until five years old, which is how the program is designed, they will have 60 new books that belong to them. It will build their personal library and help promote reading."

The Urban Neighborhood Initiative targets central city neighborhoods, a huge area that includes Blue Hills, Manheim and Ivanhoe. The goal is to revitalize these neighborhoods by focusing on education.

And many believe one of the best ways to improve education is getting kids reading at an earlier age. The Burns and McDonnell Foundation is donating $250,000 so that a Dolly Parton Imagination Library can give one new age-appropriate book every month to children in targeted neighborhoods for the next five years.

"There's nothing more important to the future of a neighborhood like this than teaching kids to read and having them ready for school," said Greg Graves, CEO of the design-build firm. "We are just thrilled to be a part of today."

Graves and other leaders took time to read to kids who will be receiving the books. Faxon Elementary School also will be getting a Success By 6 Center, which provides toys and a lending library to help train parents, and early childhood educators.

Studies have shown that parents who read to their children every day as soon as they are born help develop kids who are more successful in school, have better language skills and higher self esteem and confidence.