READING and hearing spoken verse is so important to three-year-old Mackenzie.
Born deaf, Mackenzie is fast catching up to other children her age with a little help from country music superstar Dolly Parton.
Mackenzie is part of the global Imagination Library, the dream of Parton, which works to ensure all children can access high-quality books until they reach school.
Each month Mackenzie receives a new book in the mail. She keeps them in a little bookcase by her pretty tepee – the perfect nook to curl up and read in.
Mum Tamara Donnelly said the space allowed Mackenzie a chance to choose books as she wanted to read them.
“It’s a big thing for us to receive free books. You can always go and purchase them, but it is really special to receive one,” Ms Donnelly said.
“We like looking at the pictures and learning what the book is about. Being able to open up the mail, she’s interested and she wants to read...It really helps developmental skills with her.
“It’s not just about extending vocabulary, it’s creating a story from the picture.”
Ms Donnelly works in education and said the period before children started school was a crucial development time. A rich world of text and imagination could make an incredible difference for a child.
For Ms Donnelly, this became more important as Mackenzie as she gradually learned new sounds after a cochlear implant. This was why Ms Donnelly sought to sign up Mackenzie for the Imagination Library Ballarat program, run by United Way and The Ballarat Foundation.
There is a long waiting list, but Mackenzie has been receiving books for about five months now. Ms Donnelly encouraged families to get involved and spend time reading or looking at pictures with children.
More than 350 children have graduated from the Ballarat program with about 260 children receiving books monthly. Almost 300 children are on this waiting list.
United Way Ballarat is calling for sponsors this Book Week. A $15 monthly donation can match a book with a young reader. More: unitedwayballarat.org.au.
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