“The Friends of the Library had a dream to bring Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to the homes of Cullman County,” said Tanya Allcorn, President of the Friends of the Public Libraries of Cullman County. “In order to be chosen as a partner there are many requirements and monetary giving goals to achieve, but we believe in Cullman and we believe our community will continue to support this program for many years to come.”
The announcement was made Friday morning at the Cullman County Public Library, where the first children in Cullman County were enrolled in the program and presented with their first Imagination Library book.
“As a librarian, I cannot overstate the importance of early childhood literacy,” said Sharon Townson, Director of the Cullman County Public Library System. “Reading is recreation for your mind. Children need to be introduced to books at an early age. We introduce our young children to music, dance and sports. We also need to get books into the hands of the very young to spark an interest in reading.”
Dolly Parton started the program in 1995 to address high illiteracy and low graduation rates in her home of Sevier County, TN. Today the Imagination Library mails more than 1.8 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children in more than 2,000 communities across the United States as well as Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Research has shown the single most significant factor in influencing a child’s early education success is an introduction to books and being read at home prior to being in school. Statistics provided by the Imagination Library show that children who enter kindergarten ready for school have an 82 percent chance of mastering basic life skills by age 11, compared to a 45 percent chance for children who are not school ready.
“There are roughly 6,000 children under five years old in our community,” said Townson. “All children in public school now fall under the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act, placing greater emphasis on reading proficiency by third grade. This free, home-delivered book program has come along at a perfect time.”
Work on the local program started last fall when Cullman Electric Cooperative asked the Friends of the Public Libraries of Cullman County to serve as the sponsor organization. Since then, they have been working to secure the necessary funding to cover the cost of the program for the first two years. Local businesses and organizations who have joined Cullman Electric as sponsors are Cullman County Schools, R.E. Garrison, Peoples Bank of Alabama, Apel Steel and McCaw Hydraulics.
“Cullman Electric is excited to help bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Cullman County,” said Brian Lacy, Cullman EC’s manager of communications and external affairs. “Our community is growing and the opportunities our children will have in the future are incredible. By focusing our efforts as a community on early childhood education, we can help ensure the next generation is prepared to meet the workforce needs of our business community and continue building on our current achievements.”
The cost of the Imagination Library is $25 per year per child, or $2.10 per book. Donations from corporations, community groups and individuals make the program possible.
“To be able to launch this program here today, a program that has given away 161 million books, is to see a dram come to life,” Allcorn said. “The community of Cullman has a giving spirit and has always supported programs that help our youth. We are looking forward to signing up families to receive their free books and spreading the world about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.”
To register a child for the program, visit www.ccimaginationlibrary.com/signup/.
Individual sponsorships can be made by visiting www.ccimaginationlibrary.com/give/.