Imagination Library: Free Books for Eligible Kids

Nearly 120,000 books have gone out to 4,200 children in and around the Cadillac area in the last six years.

All of them completely free to parents or caregivers with kids 5 and under—but still some aren’t participating.

Elizabeth Bechtel is a kindergarten teacher at Kenwood Elementary in Cadillac.

It’s her job to teach these littles their lessons, but learning can and should start at home long before they end up with her.

That can be as easy as reading a book to your child.

And for parents who live within the Wexford-Missaukee ISD, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be reading with their children.

Every child from birth to age 5 can get a free book every month delivered to them in the mail.

The program is called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Cadillac area joined in 2013.

Yet not everyone signs up for this service.

Bill Tencza was instrumental in bringing the program to the area when he was at the chamber of commerce. Today he’s retired, but still advocating for the Imagination Library.

It doesn’t come without a cost.

Right now about 2,000 kids are signed up and each book costs the community a little more than $2. That means more than $4,000 dollars a month at the current enrollment.

Money comes through private investment, foundations and donations.

But this month, there’s a special fundraising goal on the table from the Wexford-Missaukee United Way.

Yet more than money, those who are behind the imagination library want to see every child that’s eligible receive free books to put in their library.

Sign up is simple and the payoff is huge. Learn more at

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