Hundreds of Harlan County’s youngest residents will be receiving books monthly as part of their participation in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
With open enrollment scheduled to begin in late May on the internet, nearly 300 families took advantage of early registration in special events held at the public libraries in Cumberland, Evarts and Harlan.
Jim Tackett, a team leader with the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative, said the planners had no preconceived numbers for participation, but noted he was pleased with the registrations received during the county’s kickoff.
“The more we can enroll, the more it provides opportunity for kids to be read or to be read too,” said Tackett. “They will be able to build their own personal library…Even with today’s technology, it is still nice to be able to learn to read and hold a book in your hands.”
He said Imagination Library “hopefully will wet their appetite to read more and learn more even outside the classroom environment.”
Funded through the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative of the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative and the University of Kentucky Collaborative Center for Literacy Development, the early registrants have already received their first book, “The Little Engine that Could” and others will begin arriving monthly through the mail in late summer.
Harlan County is one of the 14 counties in the KVEC region to pilot the Imagination Library, with the goal of expanding across the state. Harlan County was the seventh completed in the region.
THE UK CCLD is collaborating with Penguin Publishing to create short videos to assist parents and educators with maximizing the reading experience with each month’s book.
Local efforts have been led by the Harlan County School District, which is a member of the KVEC ARI initiative, area family resource and youth service centers, Forward in the Fifth, Harlan County Health Department, Sunshine School, the Harlan County Preschool Program, the public libraries and others.
In 1995, country music star Dolly Parton launched the program which includes her name to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee. Her goal was to help foster a love for reading among preschool children and their families by providing them with a book each month. Her ultimate goal was to make certain children had books regardless of their financial situation at home.
The program has expanded and currently over 1,600 communities provide the Imagination Library to over 750,000 children each month. Already statistics and independent reports show the program drastically improves early childhood literacy for children enrolled in the program. Further studies have shown improved scores during early literacy testing.