By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – If some state lawmakers have their way, every kid under age 5 in Colorado will begin receiving a free book in the mail each month. Sen. Jeff Bridges and Sen. Jack Tate plan to fund the program with the help Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee. It will mail a child one book every month from the time they are born until they’re 5 for $30 per kid per year.

Bridges and Tate introduced a bill that says if a local community raises half the cost, the state will pay the other half.

“We know from all sorts of research that when kids are read to, their brains develop, they grow and think, and reading scores increase dramatically,” said Bridges.

Jeff Bridges

State Sen. Jeff Bridges (credit: CBS)

Bridges estimates that it would cost the state about $5 million a year if every child in Colorado signed up, “Which would be amazing.”

“We spend $5 million on things that don’t have any journal articles showing that they work. They’re just someone’s idea and they say, ‘Oh, I think this might work’. We know for sure this is going to help kids.”

Wakely and Warren Ripley, of Denver, are already members of the Imagination Library.

“We call it new book day, so we pull the book out of the mail ‘New book day! New book day!’ and dance and sing and unwrap it,” their mom Durban told CBS4.

Right now, Denver pays the full cost of the program for 11,000 kids, but another 11,000 are on a waitlist.

(credit: CBS)

Tate has seen the benefits firsthand. He’s from Tennessee.

“Academic research and practical experience nationally has shown that this is a great program for kids and the catalyst for their future success,” he said.

Durban Ripley says the books also promote family bonding.

“Besides the book and the reading and maybe the Spanish and the diversity of the books that we have and the exposure, it’s also just cuddle time, and that’s so important,” she said.

Under the bill, the program would be available to every kid in Colorado — regardless of income — so it’s not stigmatized as only for low-income kids.

Dolly Parton speaks onstage during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards show at The Shrine Auditorium on Jan. 29, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Dolly Parton (credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Tate is Republican and Bridges is Democrat and the bill has a good chance of passing. They are hoping Dolly Parton herself comes to Colorado to support it.

Shaun Boyd

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