The Imagination Library program is a literacy initiative launched by Dolly Parton and her foundation in 1996.
Dolly developed a program so that every preschooler in her home of Sevier County Tennessee would have their own library of books that would encourage them in a early love of reading and learning. The program was so successful and gained so much national interest that Dolly decided to offer her Imagination Library for replication to any community that would support it. It is not a charity or social service it is a gift to the community. Currently there are more than 1400 Imagination Library communities across America, Canada and Great Britain and today it is in Jefferson, Marion and Washington Counties in Illinois!
Why the DPIL in our community?
6 years ago our United Way started making the journey towards community impact. No longer would United Way just be a funder of agencies but a catalyst for community change. The journey has been slow but we have made progress. Two years ago all United Ways were challenged by UW of America (now United Way Worldwide) to focus on programs that would impact the areas of Education, Health and Financial Stability.
When we looked at our current body of community programs, we decided one of the first areas we would tackle was Education. Already we were partnering on programs that directly impacted children and their growth and education such as:
- Stuff the Bus – so that children had the supplies and tools necessary to learn
- Nutrition on Weekends program – supplying kid friendly food to children who are at risk of hunger when outside of the school environment. Because children with hungry bellies cannot learn
- Foster Grandparents program through One Hope United that places volunteer grandparents inside the school districts to provide one-on-one assistants to children to help with reading, math and to perform as an assistant to the teachers
- Sports scholarships so that children stay active, healthy and involved
- Girl Scouts
- And many safety net programs to keep children and families stable and healthy such as the Body Boundaries program through the Amy Center that is in all our schools,
But the time has come for us to get even more serious about impacting our ultimate goal, increasing the high school graduation rate. As we began to research our communities needs and programs that would address those needs we realized that in order to impact the graduation rate we had to start early, at birth to make education a priority for all of life. During this research we learned some startling statistics:
- Third graders from middle class homes have a vocabulary of 12000 words as compared to students from poverty who have a 4000 word vocabulary
- 75 % of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school
- The average kindergarten student has spent more than 5000 hours of television, have spent more time in front of the television than it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree
- States determine the number of jail cells they will need based upon the number of students not reading at grade level by grade three.
Our own local statistics are showing that our low income children are performing well below those of their peers and we know more than ever that poverty plays a very important role in a child’s future and our numbers of low income children in our communities are higher than they have ever been.
The key is to start at birth. To immerse a child in a literacy environment can be a stronger predictor of literacy and academic achievement than family income. The more words a child hears the larger the child’s vocabulary. The larger their vocabulary the more likely they will be a proficient reader. However in order for a child to read or to be read to there must be books in the home. In many of our lower income homes there simply is not age appropriate reading material available to our families.
How does the program work?
Any registered child under the age of five living in Jefferson, Marion or Washington Counties in Illinois receives a free age-appropriate book each month in the mail. While the DollyWood Foundation oversees the selection and delivery of the books, it is up to the local community to raise the funds.
We need your support…
Ideally, we would like to reach 100% of our children. We cannot make significant steps toward that goal without your help! “Imagination Library was designed to help children dream more, learn more, care more and be more, and it is really working," says Dolly Parton. “My dream is to expand
Imagination Library all over America and all over the world. By doing so, we are giving the gift of reading to every pre-school child.”
Register Your Child with Imagination Library.
Any child between birth and five years old living in Jefferson, Marion or Washington Counties in Illinois may be registered by a parent or legal guardian for this free program. JUST CLICK HERE!
Not from Jefferson, Marion or Washington Counties in Illinois? Help us bring the Imagination Library to your community. Like-minded individuals who care about their children and our future can join together to raise funds and help us to bring the Imagination Library to their children too. Won't you help us?