Since the expansion of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to an estimated 1,800 children in Macon County, the program currently has an enrollment of 599 children. The program, which provides one book every month to children from birth to five years old, has had 655 children in the program, with 56 “graduating” or aging out.
Through community donations from individuals, businesses and local government grants, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, which would normally cost $30 per child per year, is free of charge to Macon County residents.
With the goal of promoting early literacy in Macon County children, the Highlands Literacy Council and Read2Me worked to bring the program to the community.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides one book per month free of charge for all children, birth to five, who register.
“This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in your community,” says Parton in the program's information letter. “When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”
From the time a child is first registered, he/she will receive the first book within 90 days. The first book in the series is “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper. The book comes with a special note from Dolly Parton.
Early literacy is a vital tool in a child's development and can have a lasting impact on a child's education. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a not-for-profit organization geared toward bringing hope and help into the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities, a student who finishes second grade without being able to read has only a one in four chance of reading at grade level by the end of elementary school.
The NCLD also states that 35 percent of children with reading disabilities drop out of school, a rate twice that of their classmates and even more alarming, 25 percent of adults in the United States lack the basic literacy skills required for a typical job.
Children who do not learn to read constitute approximately 17 percent of the population and comprise more than 50 percent of the special education population. Currently 2.7 million students with learning disabilities (primarily reading disabilities) receive special education services, an increase of 42 percent over the last decade.
With the goal of increasing the access and availability to literature, both Read2Me and the Highlands Literacy Council want to double the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Programs numbers in the coming year.
Enrollment forms can be picked up at the Macon County Central Office, the Macon County Public Library, or by contacting Diane Cotton at (828)524-2938.