A landmark reading initiative for children, launched by country music legend Dolly Parton and Gov. Kay Ivey, has grown exponentially, Ivey said.
The governor, in an update Tuesday, said the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has already grown to serve more than 49,000 children since its statewide expansion in August.
“I am excited to see the rapid growth and response from communities across the state that are now serving children and families by providing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Alabama,” said Ivey. “The enrollment numbers are encouraging, but our work isn’t done. We still have thirteen counties where the program is not available, and it is my goal for all children age five and younger in our state to be provided coverage.”
Produced through a partnership between the state of Alabama and Parton, the program’s goal is to provide the children with free, high quality books.
“Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a grass roots, community-based program. Our goal of serving nearly 200,000 children is within reach and bringing these final counties on board will require strong partnerships and support on the local level,” she said.
“We can’t miss this opportunity to inspire a love for reading and learning in our next generation of Alabamians.”
Dollywood Foundation Regional Director Kahla Williams discussed the expansion of the Imagination Library and thanked Ivey for her role in promoting it.
“We have seen not only steady enrollment growth (almost 10,000 more children enrolled in Alabama since August), but a rapid growth of awareness and interest from local organizations across the state looking to get involved,” said Williams. “We thank all the local communities and partners who have stepped forward to help pursue DPIL’s mission, and Governor Ivey for the personal approach her administration has taken to grow the program across the state.”
Leadership from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education explained their organization’s role in expanding the program.
“We are continuing to collaborate with communities across the state to provide full coverage in the partially covered counties and to find local community partners in counties where the program is not available,” said Acting Secretary Jan Hume. “To help bring these final counties on board, funding has been made available to cover the local cost for the first two years of the program that will allow the opportunity for the local community partner to fundraise and kickstart enrollment.”
State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), a major advocate for the Imagination Library, gave some insight into how the idea for the program was brought to his attention originally.
“Several years ago, one of my constituents, Debbie Barclay, approached me asking for the resources necessary to start the Dolly Parton Imagination Library,” he said. “When Governor Ivey announced she was introducing the Imagination Library statewide, all of Jackson County, especially Debbie, was excited.
“For our students to have a lifetime of success, we must put books in their hands during their formative years, and Governor Ivey understands that. I thank her for her continued leadership to champion programs that will make a difference for our children.”
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.