When Brenda Hewitt, president of the Rotary Club of Juneau, took office earlier this year, literacy was high on her list of priorities. Since assuming the office, she has created a literacy coordinator position on her board and obtained funding from Rotary International District 5010 through a $3,500 grant, which will be matched by the club, to help underwrite literacy projects. Most importantly, she and her club will be assembling a database of all literacy programs in Juneau – and how people can access them.
Earlier this month, the club’s board of directors voted unanimously to support literacy by helping to kick-off a fundraising drive for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library with a donation of $1,000. On Oct. 15, the check was presented to Joy Lyon, Executive Director of the Association for the Education of the Young Children – Southeast, the organization in which the Library is housed, and David Newton, chair of Juneau’s Early Literacy Council.
“I’m delighted to present this check to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on behalf of all of Juneau’s Rotary clubs,” Hewitt said. “Although our club is administering this grant, the Glacier Valley and Gastineau clubs are all committed to increasing Juneau’s literacy rate.”
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was started by Dolly Parton to help increase literacy among preschoolers in her home state of Tennessee; she realized the importance of being able to read with the ability to succeed in school, as well as in life. It is a unique early childhood program that mails a brand new, age and developmentally appropriate book to enrolled children every month from birth until five years of age, creating a home library of up to 60 books and instilling a love of books and reading from an early age. Now, a decade later, the program has grown from one small county in east Tennessee to almost 2,000 communities in the US, Canada and the UK. Parton originally funded the program, but by 2012, more than 45 million books had been distributed to more than 600,000 children, thanks to the generosity of its sponsors – businesses, individuals and service clubs such as Rotary.
The program works because it encourages an adult to read to or with a child for just 20 minutes a day and provides the books with which an adult can make that happen. Every child, from birth to the age of five is eligible — regardless of family income. Almost 2,000 children are now enrolled in the local program, which includes almost every community in Southeast Alaska. In Juneau, Bartlett Regional Hospital, SEARHC and the Juneau Family Birth Center provide enrollment information to parents for children born in their facilities.
According to Lyon, the program costs $150 to provide a book a month to a child from birth to five years – only $30 a year. The goal for the current campaign is to raise at least $15,000 to support the next 1,000 born in the region. Plans are currently underway for an official campaign “kick-off” on Friday, Nov. 8 at the JACC from 4:30-5:30 p.m., when the 100,000th book distributed in Southeast will be presented. Although the event will be free for the entire family, donations of at least $30 per person in support of the program will be encouraged.
For more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the upcoming event or to donate to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, visit www.aeyc-sea.org/imaginationlibrary or call 907-789-1235. Learn more about the Rotary Club of Juneau at juneaurotary.org.