Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is now shipping books to over 4,400 children!

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Buncombe County mails a new, free, age-appropriate book to registered children each month until they turn five years old. DPIL creates a home library of up to 60 books and instills a love of books and reading from an early age. Here is what our families have to say! 

“Edie loves to read her books!  Getting a new book for her nursery library from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library every month is as big a thrill for her as it is for me.  She has books in her car-box and she is enjoying Little Miss Spider on this trip!”  ~ Betty (DPIL parent)


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library-Buncombe County


“Thank you for bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Buncombe county! James enjoyed all the books, now he is ready for kindergarten.” ~ Greg B.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library-Buncombe County

“The Imagination Library was designed to help children dream more, learn more, care more, and be more, and by golly, it’s really working,” said Dolly Parton. Parton started the program 20 years ago in her hometown of Sevierville, TN.

“Back in the hills of Tennessee, illiteracy was a real problem,” she said. “I saw firsthand the lifelong struggles that resulted for many of my friends and neighbors.”

“It really affected me, and ever since that time it’s been my dream for every child to have a library of books that their parents can read to them from, from the time they’re born until they start school.”

“That dream has become a global reality. Today, the Imagination Library has replications in 1,600 communities in 4 countries. The program now mails over 1.1 million books each month to children in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.”

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Youth Literacy: The summer camp was a big success!

Fourteen tutors ages 16-20 worked with fifty students for eight weeks, and the experience was a big success!

The students received pre-and post-tests to measure progress. Title I Reading Specialists from Asheville City Schools administered the tests incorporating the same series of tools they use to measure progress during the school year.  Students were given between 2 to 6 tests each, depending on their grade.   Of the students who completed both the pre-and post-tests, 41 out of 44 (93%) improved their test scores in at least one test.

The collaboration between YTL (Youth Transformed for Life) and our Youth Literacy Program was initiated through conversations over the past months about how to reach more grade school students of color.

Knowing that the impact of COVID left students with even larger gaps in reading levels, the Literacy Together team decided to find a way to step up (read more about this process here).

The campers were primarily youth of color, and our paid internship offer prioritized young adults of color to serve as tutors and mentors. Here are some of their testimonials and photos. Enjoy!

I understand more about how to empathsize with those who view reading as a challenge. Reading has always been a fun activity for me, but this summer I was shown that this is not the case for everyone and I need to be sensitive to that.” 

One of my students went from not being able to recognize the sounds of “u” and “a” and “i” in certain words to reading paragraphs fluently by the end. One student had trouble with the auditory deletion exercises but by the end, they got a 100 percent on the assessment. Another student had trouble writing and reading over four-letter words but could read them and figure them out by the end.”

The internship allowed me to improve my communication skills with other adults and kids. If I ever decide I want to teach on an elementary level or on any level, I would have the knowledge or the feel for how or what to do when working with other students. The experience will also tell my future employers that I’ve had experience or interest in teaching from a young age and that I’ll be a good candidate.”

I feel like I have definitely gained a love for learning and working with kids. I really liked being able to help kids who have some of the struggles I experienced when I was their age. It was so rewarding and I value those relationships so so much. I know Tonya said this but I’m not going to forget these people or my kids for the rest of my life.”

“I gained patience from dealing with kids as well as many other skills because it is not like anything I have done before. I think it gave us a very good sense of leadership and empowerment because however much effort we put in was how much we got out. I learned that simple things can mean so much to people and have a great impact on them. Overall a great experience that I think a lot of people will benefit from.”

Thanks to all the interns, we appreciate you!


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Mr. Lee’s citizenship exam success story

Citizenship exam success story

Mr. Lee came to Literacy Together in 2017, when he’d been in the US only nine months. He was matched with a tutor who had lived in Korea and was thrilled to work with a Korean student. They met weekly at the First Baptist Church in Weaverville for four years, and became dear friends. Keep reading this inspiring citizenship exam success story!

The tutor says “I consider it a privilege to work with him every week, and to help him become more comfortable in his adopted country, just like so many South Koreans helped me 45+ years ago when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town in Korea.”
When Mr. Lee became eligible to apply for US citizenship, his tutor added civics to their curriculum. After he passed the US Naturalization Exam, she brought a cake and flowers to class and they celebrated along with the staff at the church that had hosted their classes for so long.
Then they came to the Literacy Together office for a brief but emotional presentation of a US flag that had been flown over the Capitol building in Mr. Lee’s honor at the request of Literacy Together. We are so proud of Mr. Lee’s accomplishments, and so very grateful to his dedicated tutor for all the effort and love she put into supporting him!
Read Carmen’s citizenship exam success stories here.

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Youth Literacy Program: Summer Reading Initiative Update


This is an exciting time for the Youth Literacy Program!  Our collaboration with YTL (Youth Transformed for Life) was initiated through conversations over the past six or seven months about how to reach more grade school students of color. Making those connections through the regular school year had its own set of challenges.  Knowing that the impact of COVID left students with even larger gaps in reading levels, the Literacy Together team decided to find a way to step up. 

Janell Lassiter and Parris Finley, co-directors of YTL, invited Literacy Together to provide a reading/literacy component to all of the campers in their summer program. Cindy Threlkeld, executive director at Literacy Together saw this opportunity as a win-win collaboration. We would make this a paid internship and prioritize the recruitment of young adults of color as tutors. LuAnn Arena went to work raising funds and some great partners stepped up:  WNC Bridge FoundationTD Charitable FoundationDollar General; and WNC Returned Peace Corps VolunteersMackenzie Bennett was contracted to set the recruitment process in motion, and Rebecca Massey from Literacy Together joined the team to help plan the tutor training. 

VOILA!! We hired fourteen of the most amazing young people in our city. They have been trained in how to be an effective tutor using multi-sensory techniques, and eagerly started working directly with campers three mornings a week. The students are excited to get this one-on-one time and have bonded quickly with the interns.  Stay tuned for more updates on how this goes over the next eight weeks!

Here’s a picture of our team of interns! Read more about the Summer Reading Initiative.

Written by Tonya Johnson, director of the Youth Literacy Program.


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Bob’s success story as an Adult Literacy student: “I am going to get this!”

Bob came to the Adult Literacy Program in 2019 to work on his basic literacy skills. He is a single father devoted to his three kids. Like most parents in our program, he enrolled to improve his literacy not just for himself but for his children. While reading had always been a challenge for Bob, math, and mechanics had come easily. So he used that expertise to build a career as a mechanic, and that is how he supported his family until he found himself unemployed for the first time. That’s when he came to Literacy Together. He planned to strengthen his literacy to regain employment, to improve his ability to support his children in school, and to achieve more independence and opportunity in his life. Keep reading about Bob’s inspirational success story!

When Bob met Tim, the retired lawyer who would be his new tutor, they connected immediately despite their differences. Bob’s energetic personality complements Tim’s somewhat controlled demeanor. They learn from each other and often surprise each other in their sessions. Bob and Tim would likely never have crossed paths if they had not met at Literacy Together, but this partnership has changed both of their lives and perspectives.

During the pandemic and consequential shutdowns, Tim and Bob both wanted to keep their momentum going. Bob lives in a rural community with no home computer, but they each had a textbook, a phone, and every intention of moving forward, so they made it work. Since he began in 2019, Bob has completed over half of the Wilson Reading System and moved up to the next level in his annual literacy test. He shows no signs of stopping. Tim says, “I think that I have it too easy.  Bob may have the best student want-to-learn attitude ever. As I have said before, he exclaims every session about getting a word that he never got before. And as he said last time with a certain fierceness, ‘I am going to get this!'”  

Please watch this video to learn more about Bob’s success story as an Adult Literacy student and the work he’s doing with Tim.

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