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ABC Project makes reading a reality
ABC Lady
Susan Neufeld, Executive Director of the Abundant Books for Children Project, and Donna Andrews help to sign up one of 21 families to receive complimentary books through the ABC Project at the summer farmers market.

Even in an ever increasing technological world, books play an important role in child development. Luckily for local parents of little ones, there is a free way for children to build their own library at home: the Abundant Books for Children Project, or ABC Project.

The ABC Project is a local affiliate of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a nonprofit organization the country star began in her home county of Eastern Tennessee to increase literacy among youth. With over 1,700 sites in the United States, the ABC Project in Turlock is the first preschool literacy program to be established in the state which now plays host to 23 programs. The Project aims to supply newborn infants to 5 year olds children books and while children of that age are not typically able to read, the goal is for parents to read to their little ones.

“The idea is for the parents to give the first literacy skills by turning the pages, showing the pictures and getting the child familiarize with the process,” said Susan Neufeld, executive director of the ABC Project. “It creates those early family experiences where lap time and reading are a pleasurable experience.”

While the ABC Project presupposes that parents are literate in the English language, Neufeld stresses that even showing children the images and speaking about them in the parents’ native tongue is adequate. Also, as children learn how to speak and read in school, they will have their own library on which to practice their skills at home.

The books in the ABC Project are chosen by a panel of early childhood specialist and readers in conjunction with the publisher, Putnam Penguin, which exclusively publishes the books with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library insignia and the child’s name. The books are shrink-wrapped and sent directly to the child’s home. Children can receive 12 books a year from the ages of infancy to five providing them 60 free books by the time they age out of the program. Twelve to 18 titles are changed out year to year, but there are certain staple titles such as the first book in the program, “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper.

So far, 665 children have benefited from the ABC Project, which has no income qualifications and is open to any parents who desire to sign up their child that live within the 95382, 95381 or 95380 area codes. The goal of the ABC Project is to serve as many children as possible but the Project’s success is based on the funds it derives from private donations, grants and fundraisers. While the program was established in 2002, in the fall of 2005 the ABC Project lost their major funder and had to suspend the program for two years. Now back up and running, the Project aims to inspire locals to make literacy a possibility for children by soliciting donations from community members.

“For 30 dollars, you can provide 12 books in a year and significantly affect their development,” said Neufeld.

Those interested in donating or signing up for the ABC Project can do so by accessing