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37,000 West Virginia students to get free books

June 15, 2020 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Thousands of West Virginia elementary school students will receive free books this summer with help from the Dollywood Foundation and state and federal funds, officials said.

About 37,000 rising first- and second-grade students will each get five books. The first two should arrive by mail this month and three more will be sent next month, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported, citing the state Department of Education.

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The department said it used $208,000 in state funds and $557,000 in federal funds to help purchase and distribute the books and fund other aspects of the project. The foundation helped lower the overall cost of the initiative, officials said.

The books will be read aloud and paired with other educational activities online and on the Education Station show on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, said Monica DellaMea, executive director of the Office of Early and Elementary Learning.

DellaMea said the Imagination Library, started by the Dollywood Foundation, already provides about 360,000 books annually to children up to age 5.

“Because those children birth to five, in many cases, are receiving books through Imagination Library, we wanted to look at our kindergarteners and first-graders,” DellaMea said.

DellaMea said the idea began in April when Gov. Jim Justice announced that school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic would last through the end of the school year.