Augusta children under 5 years of age can receive free books once a month.

On Saturday, United Way of the Plains kicks off its expansion of a free book program in Augusta for preschool children.

Since 2011, United Way has been funding a program called the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for Andover and parts of Wichita. Now, Augusta children under 5 years of age can receive free books once a month.

“We want every child to experience the joy of books even if their families cannot afford them,” said Patrick J. Hanrahan, president of United Way of the Plains. “We know if children get exposed to reading early, they will learn more quickly and every aspect of their lives will benefit.”

Children in the Augusta zip code of 67010 will now be able to receive an age-appropriate book each month from birth to age 5. Parents can register these ways:

• get a brochure with sign-up form at the August Public Library, 1609 State St., beginning Feb. 1

• sign up online at

• call 2-1-1 (United Way’s 24-hour information line)

In addition to Augusta, United Way provides books in the following Sedgwick County zip codes of 67203, 67208, 67210, 67211, 67213, 67214, 67216, 67218 and 67219, and Andover’s 67002.

United Way’s Legacy Fund endowment is funding books through the program in Sedgwick and Butler counties. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a national program started by Dolly Parton to inspire children to learn to read.

The experiences of thousands of families, as well as research in child development, affirm the benefits of early learning experiences for children. Research shows activities such as reading regularly with children, beginning in infancy, can produce a significant growth in I.Q., which lasts a lifetime.

Anyone interested in helping fund the program can send a donation to: United Way of the Plains, 245 N. Water, Wichita, KS 67202. If by check, make it out to “United Way of the Plains” with “Imagination Library” in the memo line.