The millionth book was delivered last month directly to the home of a young North Carolina child thanks to a partnership between the globally recognized early literacy program Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Smart Start, North Carolina’s early childhood network. The program has currently registered nearly 200,000 children state-wide.
In Buncombe County, 1,982 children currently receive free books each month through local affiliates the Literacy Council of Buncombe County and Black Mountain Rotary. Over the past three years, these Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library affiliates have partnered with Buncombe Partnership for Children to provide more than 30,000 books to children living in our community.
“Smart Start and the Imagination Library dared to dream big and look what we have done!” said Dolly Parton, the founder of the program. “And best of all we are just getting started. We want to inspire every child in North Carolina to love reading and to love learning.”
Participant surveys show that Parton’s vision is succeeding.
“My three-year-old loves getting books in the mail,” said a Buncombe County participant. “He always wants to read his new book right away and it has encouraged more interest in reading together!”
During the 2017 legislative session, North Carolina state lawmakers included $3.5 million in the first year of the budget and $7 million in the second year for the Smart Start network to offer free books through Imagination Library to children across the state. Imagination Library is a program created to foster a love of reading among children aged birth to five through the gift of a specially selected book delivered right to their home each month.
“What an incredible milestone,” said Cindy Watkins, the President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children that oversees the Smart Start network, “I am grateful to our state leadership for recognizing how important it is to get books into the hands of our youngest children. With this funding, the Smart Start network was able to get Imagination Library directly to our communities very quickly.”
Smart Start began rolling out Imagination Library in October 2017 and the program is now available to every child in the state under the age of five. With 75 local partnerships across the state, Smart Start continues to enroll young children to get as many books into the homes of North Carolina children as possible.
“Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been in my community for many years and I’ve seen the impact the gift of a book can have on families,” said Senator Ralph Hise, the lead Senate sponsor on the bill funding the partnership between Smart Start and Imagination Library. “I wanted to continue to support and grow literacy throughout the state.”
To find out more about Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partnership, visit www.smartstart.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library/. To learn more about the Literacy Council of Buncombe County or to enroll a child, visit www.litcouncil.com.