Imagination Library Week will be celebrated in all 95 counties of Tennessee this week, Sept. 15-21.
The program began in 2004 in Lincoln County, and currently there are 1,201 children enrolled here to receive a free, age-appropriate book each month in the mail, says Teresa Brown, president, going on to note 1,175 local children who have graduated from the program.
“Over 90,000 books have been mailed into Lincoln County homes in nine years,” she said, adding that the IL books sure to contribute to Lincoln County’s literacy rates being well above the state average.
Parents or guardians may enroll their child to receive the books by picking up a registration form at the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Public Library or the Lincoln County Health Department. Change of address forms can also be found at those locations.
“Some parents with children enrolled in school are choosing not to enroll their younger children,” Mrs. Brown continued. “One reason is that parents feel they do not need multiple copies of books. The Dollywood Foundation has a team of educators that choose books especially for each age group. New books are added to the list each year.
“Parents can expect the old favorites but books their other children did not receive,” she continued, adding that the book list is not the same each year. And inside each book is a reading lesson. The parent becomes their child’s first reading teacher.
Studies show that children who grow up with books in the home do better in school. This program begins with the birth of the child so it is called Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.
“The more experience children have with books, the better reader they will be,” said Dr. Terry Sue Fanning, supervisor of curriculum and instruction with Lincoln County School System. “It’s never too early to start. My grandson has gotten his first books. We have begun our Imagination Library journey, and he loves it!”
Pat Bowers, Supervisor of Instruction with Fayetteville City Schools says, “It is evident by third grade that a child with early reading experience has greater success. The single best thing we’ve done to improve literacy in Tennessee is to provide books in the home from birth. There is no substitute for a printed book. It’s so valuable!”
Dolly Parton does not buy the books for children in Lincoln County. Each week in The Elk Valley Times, there is a list of donors called All ‘Bout Children Donors or ABCD. The books have a Sponsor of the Month, too, which helps funds the program.
Additionally, federal workers may contribute through the CFC or Combined Federal Campaign, and there are other fund-raisers which assist with the effort locally. On Sept. 21, the Fourth Annual Imagination Library 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Walk will be held at Stone Bridge Park. Then Fayetteville High School honor students will be working the Elves Workshop at “Fayetteville … Host of Christmas Past.”
Memorial donations can be sent to P.O. Box 914, Fayetteville, 37334, and at Christmas, donations can be made in honor of friends and loved ones.
“The cost of operating this program for a year is close to $20,000,” added Mrs. Brown. “The generosity of Lincoln County residents has ensured that all children can have books in the home.
“President Thomas Jefferson said, ‘I cannot live without books.’ The Imagination Library would like for all children to have books in the home starting at birth. By age 5, the child has their own personal library of 60 books,” she added.