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In an effort to encourage, support and promote early reading and literacy development in young children, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has expanded to inspire a love for books and reading in the hearts of children as they grow and prepare themselves for kindergarten.

After being inspired and motivated by her father's inability to read and write, Parton launched the idea and saw her vision come to life after the program broke ground in 1995. Imagination Library began gifting books to families and children who, while in the early stages of childhood, were unable to provide or obtain age-appropriate reading materials.

Over the years, the nonprofit program has grown from where it began in the hills of east Tennessee to mailing over 1 million free books every month to registered children up to 5 years old across the globe, spanning the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland.

In order for the program to continue thriving, community support and involvement is key. While providing "specially selected" books to preschool children, participating communities are encouraged to put forth the effort necessary to ensure the organization's livelihood and continued outreach.

Board member Mary Ann Tucker of Hot Springs is hosting and leading an etiquette seminar on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in an effort to raise funds for the community's locally regulated Imagination Library program. According to a press release, the cost is $50 per person including lunch for each of the participants.

All proceeds will be directly donated to the Imagination Library organization serving Garland, Montgomery and Pike counties. As an encouragement to those that utilize the program in developing or fostering a love for reading, every book is personalized with the registered child's name and mailed directly to their home or desired address.

"The Imagination Library is an organization founded by Dolly Parton and it is honestly just amazing," Tucker said.

The program is completely free to the parents and the child. Once they register, they get one book a month that is specially selected by professionals in that area, she said.

"It's age-appropriate, so when they're little, they get like a cardboard kind of book that the parents can read to them and they won't chew on. They go from birth and start getting a book the minute they're born. ... We try to sign them up through the hospital. Then, as they get older and turn 5, they age out when they go into kindergarten."

Anyone is welcome to sign up and take part in the program with just a few easy steps.

"It's open to everyone and everyone just loves it once they find out about it," Tucker said. "The books are beautiful. They all have a cover on them and on the back, there's instructions about what the book is about and how to read it to your child ... questions to ask after you read it to them, and it just promotes children's love of books and their joy in reading.

"And it gets them ready for kindergarten. They'll be way ahead of themselves, which is good. It's all about early literacy for the children, and it's been proven how much better they do if they've been read to when they're younger ... then, they'll get the book and read it themselves."

The Imagination Library of the Ouachitas has reached the lives of many who anticipate their monthly book arrival.

"It's so much fun because we get to go to schools and sign them up," Tucker said. "The kids get so excited and wait for the postman. We have to raise the money, so the community, businesses and individuals all help fund the whole program. It's just the most wonderful thing and now, it's all across the United States.

"Until I got involved, I didn't realize just how great it is. The parents love it too because it really helps them. Parents are so busy now and you never know what book to get, but if you've got one coming in the door, it really feels good."

Being introduced to books and reading at a young age has proven to benefit creativity and development, she said.

"It's the whole idea when they say [that] even when they're babies, just sitting down (with them) before they go to bed is a routine," she said. "They can build their little library (and) the books are just beautiful. They're really nice books.

"The etiquette class is to raise money. It's very needed today, everybody's so busy and everybody forgets. You're in a hurry, or at McDonald's or somewhere, but it's nice to know the proper thing to do."

At a cost of $25 per year, one book will be delivered to each child for 12 months. "When people donate," she said, "if they donate like $100, or even $50, that's two kids getting a book for an entire year."

For more information and to register for the etiquette course, lunch and fundraiser, call Tucker at 501-525-3474 or email at [email protected]

Local on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: Etiquette seminar to raise funds for book program

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