Each month brothers Michael and Ethan find a special gift in the mail

STORYTIME: Brothers Ethan and Michael have fast found a love for reading and sharing tales with each other after being accepted into Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program in Ballarat. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
STORYTIME: Brothers Ethan and Michael have fast found a love for reading and sharing tales with each other after being accepted into Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program in Ballarat. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

TWO Little Monkeys is Michael’s favourite story. It makes him laugh.

The Mem Fox book arrived in the mail and Michael, who is almost four, likes to read it with his younger brother Ethan.

Each month a new book arrives.

Michael and Ethan’s mother Karen Hackett said reading was a great bonding experience for her boys, who love listening and learning words while fuelling their imaginations.

They boys are part of the global Imagination Library, created by country singing legend Dolly Parton to provide all children, from birth until they begin school, access to high-quality children’s books – regardless of their income.

Singing superstar Dolly Parton.

Singing superstar Dolly Parton.

Michael was on the waiting list three years before he was accepted into the Ballarat program, which is run by United Way Ballarat and The Ballarat Foundation but reliant on donations.

Ms Hackett said her family was so grateful for the joy it was providing. She could already see the difference the book program was making.

“It really surprises me what they do know already,” Ms Hackett said.

“Ethan (13 months old) picks out the ones he likes already. There are even words you might not use in day-to-day language that pop up and you can have a talk about what it means.”

The books have a different theme each month. Ms Hackett said Michael’s book last month, Kerri Hashmi’s You and Me Murrawee, helped give the family an insight into Aboriginal culture and her boys loved the artwork.

Books sent are age appropriate and aim to improve children’s literacy levels before they start school.

More than 350 children have graduated from the Ballarat program with about 260 children receiving books monthly. Almost 300 children are on the waiting list across Ballarat.

United Way Ballarat is calling for more sponsors this Book Week with a donation of $15 a month able to match a book with a young reader.

To learn more about the program, as a sponsor or to join, hit here.