October 11, 2001

Local Kids May Get Head Start On Reading From Imagination Library

Every prospective Scotland County R-I student could be receiving a book a month from the time of their birth until they reach age five if a local organization is successful in its efforts.

Local efforts have begun to raise a portion of the funds necessary to bring the Imagination Library to children of Scotland County. The program, which was created as part of Dolly Parton's Dollywood Foundation, has distributed more than 200,000 books in Dolly's home county of Sevier, in Tennessee. Recently the foundation's literacy campaign has been made available to county-wide organizations across the nation.

The Imagination Library is a unique educational initiative begun in November 1995 to stimulate young children's imaginations and to encourage a love of reading and learning. From birth until age 5, each child receives a personal hardcover book each month in the mail from Dolly, beginning with a special copy of The Little Engine That Could.

The Imagination Library also includes a distinctive bookcase with "locomotive and caboose" bookends that adjust to hold each child's expanding library of books. The Dollywood Foundation's "Imagineer" drives a specially-designed road train, "The Imagination Express," to daycare centers and special community events to read to children and promote the program.

Books are mailed once a month to each child following registration and verification of residence. Each child in a household is eligible for the monthly mailings until they reach the age of five.

The book selection committee for the Imagination Library consists of parents, educators, child development specialists, university professors and a representative of the American Library Association.

Because of the program's success, Dolly recently announced plans for the Foundation to replicate the program in communities across the country. Local communities must financially support the program. The Dollywood Foundation will manage the library's composition, orchestrate the monthly book orders, provide technical assistance, and attempt to secure additional funds for these local efforts.

Gwen Dunn, one of the organizers of the local campaign, indicated the local fundraising drive likely will need to raise approximately $30 per child to be enrolled in the Scotland County project. She estimated that the local funding would be used for postage and other costs to cover the 60 separate book deliveries over the five-year period.

The local group is planning a meeting October 17 in the conference room at Firstar Bank to discuss funding options. A representative of the Dollywood Foundation will be on hand to discuss funding sources.

To support the national programs, Dolly and special guest celebrities have performed annual benefit concerts for the Dollywood Foundation that have raised over $2.7 million in the past 11 years. Individual and corporate donors have contributed an additional $1,000,000.

The Scotland County R-I School District and Parents as Teachers are taking an active roll in the organization of the local project. SCR-I instructor Julie Clapp is serving as president. Former teachers Dani Fromm and Mary Jane Bush are serving as vice president and secretary, respectively. Dunn is the group's treasurer.

Anyone seeking additional information on the project or wishing to make a contribution can contact Dunn at 883-5311 or by mail at RR 1 Box 110, Baring, MO 63531.

The Scotland County Rotary Club helped kick off the local fundraising efforts with a $500 contribution.

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