As I explained in one of my first posts, Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. However, believe it or not, Dolly Parton is another hero of mine. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s not for her music (somehow I grew up in the south and never gained an appreciation for country music), it’s for her business savvy, and above all, her philanthropy.
I grew up in Jefferson County TN, right next door to Dolly’s home of Sevier County. Because of my close proximity, I became aware of her childhood literacy project, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (hence the title of the post, DPIL) shortly after it was created in 1996. Although I was far too old to be a part of the program, my younger sister received a free, age-appropriate book once per month delivered to our house absolutely free, thanks to DPIL and the Jefferson County local affiliate, until she turned five and grew too old for the program.
Fast-forward about ten years and DPIL had grown far beyond Sevier County and a few other surrounding counties–every county in Tennessee had a local affiliate, West Virginia and Alaska were in the process of developing state-wide programs of their own, affiliates were located all over the US, and had even spread to Canada and the United Kingdom, totaling over 1,200 local affiliates (each affiliate covering a town, school district, county, or other comparatively small area) in all.
Additionally, a couple of years ago I found myself working in a job where part of my responsibilities were to oversee the day-to-day operations of a county affiliate in another part of Tennessee. This included promotion of the program, managing the database, answering questions from parents, and a number of other administrative tasks. I spent over a year doing this on a regular basis, learning the ins and outs of the system and some of the program’s failings and successes. Because of this experience, I am a HUGE supporter of DPIL, and I try to tell people about it if I can.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a great program, and if you have children under five right now, I encourage you to stop reading this post, go to www.imaginationlibrary.com, and see whether you have a local affiliate and sign up your child.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option for me–and more significantly, for Samuel–in our current town. There is no local affiliate for us. Because of that, Samuel’s mom and I are working on starting a new affiliate for our county in Kentucky. I know, I probably have too much on my plate already, but this is too important to just hope that it will happen thanks to someone else’s work. I have the means, the time, and the ability to start the program rolling, and we are starting to do that. Last week we had a small planning committee meeting to start hammering out some concrete steps we can take to start the program, and I am encouraged and excited about the possibilities.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you out of the loop! I think it will be interesting to chronicle the start of the program in our town, and I hope it is interesting for you to read about, and maybe even inspiring for your own life. If your town doesn’t currently have the Imagination Library, why not start it yourself? I’m always happy to answer questions, and hopefully I can help you figure out the next steps to take. Keep an eye on this space, and be sure to check out the “Imagination Library” category and tag on Mommy Is At Work for future information on the project.