Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library®
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library impacts the pre-literacy skills and school readiness of children under the age of 5 in Buncombe County. The program mails a new, free, age-appropriate book to registered children each month until they turn five years old. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library creates a home library of up to 60 books and instills a love of books and reading from an early age. If you have any questions about the program, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A national panel of educators selects the Imagination Library titles, which include: The Little Engine that Could, Last Stop on Market Street, Violet the Pilot, As an Oak Tree Grows, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Look Out Kindergarten, here I come, and many more (take a look at all the titles).
Program Launch and Expansions
Literacy Together became a Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library affiliate in November 2015 with support from the Buncombe Partnership for Children. Through this program, registered children in Buncombe County receive a free book in the mail each month. Their parents also have the opportunity to attend workshops to learn how to build their children’s early literacy skills. Parents in need of literacy assistance are encouraged to receive tutoring through Literacy Together’s adult programming.
The program served 200 children during the 2015/16 fiscal year. The program expanded to serve 400 children in July 2016, and 600 in August 2017. In July 2018, capacity increased to 1,900 thanks to a special allocation in the North Carolina state budget. We’re now serving 4,600 kids in Buncombe County.
Giving Kids a Head Start
According to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. The key is to start reading to them at birth.
Harvard University pediatrician Jack Shonkoff puts it this way, “brains are built, not born.” Our brains are biologically prepared to be shaped by experiences. So early learning experiences determine learning capacities, behaviors, and even our health.
Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to language development. Among other things, reading aloud builds word/sound awareness, a potent predictor of reading success.
“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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