Parton teams with United Way on book club

A country music legend is joining with United Way of Northwest Louisiana to provide a brand-new book club for kids in the multi-parish region.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income, will be available to kids without access to books.

According to the United Way of Northwest Louisiana, Shreveport’s 71103 is one of the poorest zip codes in the region where families are struggling.

Currently, any child under five-years-old living in Desoto, Natchitoches, Sabine, Red River and Webster parishes can participate. Additional funding is needed to enroll all children in Caddo, Bossier, Bienville and Claiborne parishes.

“It’s important to remember that, broken down, early literacy refers to what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write,” said Kim Sentell Director of Marketing for Webster Parish Libraries. “It is the foundation upon which children will be ready to learn to read and write when they are taught. Literacy begins the minute a child is born. The summation of a child’s conversations, activities, and experiences all contribute to the early literacy foundation. In fact, the benefits of reading extend beyond language and literacy skills. Reading books can encourage children to be intellectually curious, inspire problem-solving, promote empathy, increase self-esteem, and help them understand the world and connect with people around them.” 

Each month, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails a high quality, age appropriate book to all registered children, addressed to them, at no cost to the child’s family. Many groups and individuals work hard behind the scenes to make that special moment possible for each child.

Imagination Library provides the infrastructure of the core program including managing the secure central database for the book order system and coordinating book selections and wholesale purchasing. It also incurs the cost of the program’s administrative expenses and coordinates monthly mailings.

Imagination Library partners with local affiliates and partners who help bring the program to cities, towns and communities around the world. Local affiliates can be businesses, school districts, small or large organizations, or simply individuals who share in the mission and purpose of the Imagination Library. 

Local affiliates are responsible for enrolling children who live within the geographical area where the program is offered. While the Imagination Library negotiates wholesale pricing for the books, local affiliates and partners are responsible for securing funds to cover that cost.

“There are some wonderful organizations out there that are stepping up to increase access to early-age reading materials,” said Sentell. In return, the fruits of those efforts make a difference in empowering our children, who are our future leaders for success. It is fantastic to see that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is one of them. Any opportunity a child gets to read is an advantage; the earlier, the better.”

In October, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gifted more than 2,148,000 books. The total number of free books gifted as of October, 2022, is 193,008,232.

Ways to register a child for the Imagination Library include: visit the Smart Start website: www.smartstartpfc.org; contact the Imagination Library office to have a paper registration form mailed; call 828-693-1580.


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