LOWELL, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The United Way of Northwest Arkansas is making sure thousands of kids in the area have access to free books. And there are thousands more eligible who just need to sign up.

“The best pathway out of poverty is an education,” United Way of NWA President and CEO Jackie Hancock said.

That education can start at an early age before kids even go to school.

“There’s all kinds of data out there, all kinds of studies, that kids learn faster if they have their own book. So getting a new book every month just accelerates that,” Hancock said.

So the United Way of NWA is working to get kids signed up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“We hope that we’ll be able to eventually cover all of the kids under the age of 5 in our area,” Vice President of Strategic Investments and Impact for United Way of NWA Ana Phakhin said.

Anyone 5 and under can sign up and as soon as you do, it will send you a copy of The Little Engine that Could.

“That was Dolly’s dad’s favorite book and that was something that she wanted to share with all of the kids who were in the program to start that love of reading and love of learning,” Phakhin said.

After that, you will get a new book every month until you age out of the program. A program that has really helped families during the pandemic.

“Lots of kids were at home and needing things to do. This was a special way for them to be able to spend some time with their parents or their family members and start learning how to read,” Phakhin said.

If you want to help support the program, it costs the united way $25 to provide a kid books for the whole year. You can donate here.