In the spring of 2011, Ann Johnston, mayor of Stockton at the time, brought together a group of community agencies to form “Read to Me, Stockton!” – our city’s affiliation to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
The Imagination Library is offered in cities across our nation, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The program’s purpose is to encourage early childhood reading. Children under the age of 5 are eligible to be in the program. Once a child is enrolled, they receive their own free book in the mail every month! The high quality, age appropriate books are addressed to the child and delivered to them by the Dollywood Foundation.
Read to Me, Stockton! offers this program to all the City of Stockton zip codes. The goal is to give these children an early introduction to books so they are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. Research has shown that the two most important factors contributing to a child’s success in school are reading aloud and parental involvement. It has been proven that the more books there are in a home, the more grades a child will complete in school.
The long-term goal of Read to Me, Stockton! is to improve literacy in our community by securing funding to send books to all children under age 5 in the city. Early exposure to books and reading will turn around Stockton’s sad statistic that only 38% of third graders can read at grade level.
What makes the approach of the Read to Me, Stockton! (RTMS) program unique is the partnerships involved.
Our former mayor, Ann Johnston, is the administrator of the program and president of the 501(3) (c) nonprofit, Read to Me, Stockton! Her genuine concern and knowledge of the value of reading at a very young age, and her ability as a leader, are vital to our program.
Books for Babes is a volunteer group that gives books to newborn babies at local hospitals and registers them for RTMS.
Family Resource and Referral Center provides meeting space at the Podesto Teen Impact Center and promotes RTMS signups with hundreds of childcare providers.
First 5 San Joaquin in partnership with others, strengthens families, communities, and systems of services and supports so children in San Joaquin enter school ready to succeed. First 5 San Joaquin provides annual funding for over 20,000 children's books distributed to families participating in Read to Me, Stockton!
Rotary Club of Stockton has played a major role in supporting RTMS and working with the Imagination Library from the beginning. Some members of the club also play roles in management of the program.
San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) provides administrative and clerical support to Read to Me, Stockton! and works closely with the USPS to ensure that books are reaching enrolled children. In addition, SJCOE supports school districts and community-based organizations in their efforts to promote RTMS registration and parental access to literacy-focused education opportunities.
San Joaquin County Public Health Services plays a major role in registering children for the program through its public health nurses and outreach workers, along its collaboration with the county’s maternity hospitals and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs.
San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific are in charge of data entry and maintaining the database of enrolled children.
Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library solicits applications at local libraries and participates in parent training.
Stockton Unified School District is in charge of registration and reaching out to the community. They conduct meetings and training sessions with parents to encourage them and help them to read to their children. They have also developed an evaluation program to measure the program’s success.
The City of Stockton provides annual funding for 25,000 children's books from its Community Development Block Grant funds.