Back in the mid-90s when country music star Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library, she did so with the hope that more children in her home county in Tennessee would be able to read by the time they reached kindergarten. She knew the correlation between early literacy and future successes in life, and that educators stress that reading with a child for just 20 minutes a day is the best way to prepare a child for school.
Today, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has grown from that one county to numerous locations throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, reaching hundreds of thousands of children (from birth until the age of five) with age and developmentally appropriate books each month. On Nov. 8, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, Juneau will celebrate early literacy and the joy of reading, when First Lady Sandy Parnell presents the 100,000th book from the Imagination Library in Southeast Alaska to the most recent family to enroll.
There are currently 2,000 children throughout southeast who are registered for the Imagination Library and receive their monthly books, absolutely free, regardless of family income. That’s the way Ms. Parton wants it to be. She began the program by paying for the books herself, but as the program expanded, she realized others would have to help with the costs of acquiring the books and mailing them out each month. In Southeast, it costs $30/per child per year or $150 to cover a child for the entire five years. Although housed in Juneau at the Association for the Education of Young Children – Southeast Alaska, the program is actually run by volunteers and with generous support from individuals, corporations and non-profits. That’s why the presentation and community celebration will kick off a $15,000 individual donor campaign.
According to Joy Lyon, the executive director of AEYC, that goal will underwrite costs for the next 1000 children born and registered in the region. AEYC and Juneau’s Early Literacy Council are hosting the event, which along with the First Lady’s presentation will include a proclamation from Mayor Sanford. Cookies and cider, prepared by a large number of volunteers, will also be available.
“Although all are invited and there’s no charge to attend our kickoff, we’re hopeful those who can afford it will donate $30 to fund a child for a year or, perhaps, $150 for the full five years,” Lyon said. She went on to point out that those unable to come, but interested in supporting the program can go to www.aeyc-sea.org/imaginationlibrary.html or unitedwayseak.org, which is currently conducting its fall giving campaign through which the Imagination Library can be designated as a recipient.
For more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library or the upcoming celebration, call 907-789-1235 or visit the AEYC-SEA website.