Group hopes to bring Parton Imagination Library to region

Published 12:19 pm Thursday, February 2, 2017

There are few childhood memories more precious or important, according to Sue Vanderhoof, than those “joyful moments” spent sharing a book with a parent or guardian.

Vanderhoof, the director of the Early Childhood Center and a board member of the Appalachian Family and Children First Council, wants to help build those memories and moments for local children by raising funds to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

The program, started by the country singer in 1995 to provide books to children in her home county in Tennessee at no cost to their families, sends children one hardbound book per month from birth through age five. It’s now available to communities anywhere that can come up with minimal funding to support the project.

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Vanderhoof explained that they got excited about the potential for the program at an AFCFC meeting, and that the idea branched off from there. They formed a committee and are currently looking for community partners to help with fundraising.

“The first couple of years will be about fundraising,” she said.

The cost per child, per month is only $2.10, but with 3800 children under five in their service area, Vanderhoof said it could take up to five years to reach their target goal of serving 60 percent of Lawrence County’s children.

The group’s target for their first two years is $18,000, which would allow them to fund books for around 20 percent of the county’s children. Within five years they would like to grow that amount to $52,000 to serve 60 percent of the children in the county.

Vanderhoof said that they are looking for individuals, agencies, civic groups, churches, and schools to get involved as “local champions.”

“Anyone who would like to partner in getting the Imagination Library off the ground,” she said.

“It’s just a really good idea to get books into (a child’s) hands during those important years,” she said.

In addition to the academic benefits that introducing your children to reading at an early age has been shown to encourage, Vanderhoof said that there is now research that suggest that scheduling “joyful moments” like sharing a book can have positive benefits for a child’s emotional growth. Especially in homes where there is a lack of structure.

While Vanderhoof emphasized that at only six weeks old, their plan to participate in the program is “very much in the infancy stage”, they are very excited at the possibility.

Anyone interested in the program can reach out to Vanderhoof at 740-377-2356, or to Susan McComas with the AFCFC at 740-237-6007.