Local Imagination Library receives state funding; continues to provide monthly books to youth in the area

November 27, 2021 | 12:08 am

Updated November 26, 2021 | 9:32 pm

The Imagination Library ensures that every child enrolled in the program receives a free book in the mail, from birth to 5 years old. In recognizing the program’s value, the state of Kentucky has graciously agreed to cover half of the cost accrued by the local chapters. 

Dolly Parton and the Dollywood Foundation created the program in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, before expanding nationwide and to other countries. While the foundation selects the high-quality books to mail and handles the purchasing and shipping, the local organizations must cover the cost of the books. 

“This is huge for our organization. To know that the state of Kentucky sees the value in this program, and is going to pay half of our bill, is tremendous,” said Diane Bowers, president of the local branch. “Each month, our bill runs about $6,300 — which is very inexpensive, considering 3,100 kids here in Daviess County are receiving a very nice book in the mail, but it’s been a huge struggle for us to pay the bill each month.”

Bowers said the additional money would allow them to dedicate funds to marketing, something they haven’t been able to do in the past. She and her team want to use the money to inform other Daviess County families about the program and hopefully enroll them. 

“We feel this will give us the opportunity to get the word out to Daviess County families — that we want to send your child a book, regardless of your income level. We want every child to develop that love of reading,” she said. “Receiving a book in the mailbox with the child’s name on it gets them excited about books and excited about reading. We hear so many beautiful stories from parents about how excited the kids are to receive the books and their excellent quality.”

The Kentucky Department of Education began work on funding the project when Steve Beshear was governor. Jane Klingner Beshear, Kentucky’s First Lady at the time, was a big proponent of the project, saying the benefits were undeniable.

“Mrs. Beshear loved this program and asked the Department of Education to figure out a way to fund it,” Bowers said. “It took quite a few years, but it’s finally here. So many studies have been done on the value of this program and how it improves literacy levels. It’s so exciting to see Kentucky stepping up and supporting this program for our youngest citizens.”

The local team hopes to increase participation in the program by 25 percent, which is roughly 775 kids. Their long-term goal is to serve up to 6,000 kids, but Bowers cited retention as a struggle, especially for transient families. 

“We have already increased our enrollment by 150 in the last couple of weeks,” she said. “We can’t forward the books; parents must contact us or go to our website to change their address. Many times, parents forget to do that, and the book is returned to us.” 

She said they make an effort to reach out to the parents but can’t always reach them.  

The good news is that these returned books get recycled back into the community and given to programs that work with low-income families who may not have access to books.

November 27, 2021 | 12:08 am

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