From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. Achievement gaps are already significant by age three, and children who are behind when they start kindergarten are more likely to struggle in school, repeat grades, and develop behavioral health problems as adults.

Only 37% of Verde Valley third graders passed the AZMerit reading test in 2017. To help make improvements in this area, we awarded funds to the Verde Valley Imagination Library, a nonprofit organization focused on early childhood literacy.

This was a boy who couldn’t sit still or turn pages in the right direction not too long ago. He just wasn’t interested in reading. We signed up for the Imagination Library program last year, and that’s when his thinking about books changed. Thanking you every time he takes one out from his collection!
— Verde Valley parent, Anonymous

The Imagination Library works to ensure that all children ages birth to five living in the Verde Valley have access to high quality books in their homes. Through a partnership with the Verde Valley Medical Center, the Women and Infants Unit gives each newborn a first book, and staff offer to help parents enroll their children in the program. Once enrolled, children receive a book in the mail each month for five years.

The idea is that by involving parents in a child’s education early on, there will be a positive impact on the child’s ability to learn. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Reading regularly with young children strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which in turn builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

According to Jodi Casper, a registered nurse in the Women and Infants Unit, “It’s nice when we see parents so interested in the Imagination Library program, and to know that in some way we are making a difference in a child’s future by promoting literacy.”

We are committed to advancing the health of northern Arizona communities. Learn more about other nonprofit organizations we have funded by visiting

* The AZMerit, also known as Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching, is the end-of-the-year annual exam administered to students from 3rd grade through high school.

Photo: A mother shares a book with her young child.