The Imagination Library program was established in 1995 in Parton’s hometown in Sevier County, Tennessee as a way to improve preschool literacy. It is now available to all preschool children in the state of Tennessee and is expanding throughout the United States.
Studies have shown that children who are read to and appreciate books before they enter kindergarten are more likely to do well throughout all of their years of schooling. The US Dеpartment of Education, Institute of Education Sciences has conducted the most comprehensive study of literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government. There results showed that 21% to 23% of adult Americans were not “able to locate information in text”, could not “make low-level inferences using printed materials”, and were unable to “integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.” Additionally, this study showed that 41% to 44% of U.S. adults in the lowest level on the literacy scale (literacy rate of 35 or below) were living in poverty.
The Imagination Library program sends a new book each month to each registered child, in the child’s name, free of charge from birth until they turn five. A book a month is now mailed to over 900,000 children in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and most recently Australia. The Dollywood Foundation administers the program a committee of authors and children’s book experts selects the books.
The trustees of the Pearsall Adirondack Foundation have committed up to $100,000 over a four year period to support this effort in the Adirondacks by picking up half the cost of the program for all enrolled children living within the “blue line” of the Adirondack Park. The Pearsall Foundation was established and funded by Glenn and Carol Pearsall in 2000 and is dedicated to “improving the quality of life for year round residents of the Adirondack Park”.
Literacy volunteers, service clubs, church groups, friends of local libraries and any other not-for-profit groups who wish to use this special financial help to establish an Imagination Library program in their Adirondack community should begin by contacting Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
The Pearsall foundation will be accepting grant applications for this new initiative on the same schedule as grant applications for other programs within the Park that meet their mission criteria. Grant applications are accepted from July 1 to August 31 for the following year, and awards are announced in October. Information and grant application forms for Imagination Library funding are available on the Pearsall Adirondack Foundation website.
Photo: Dolly Parton reading to young children, courtesy of Imagination Library.