By Marlana Ward
Reading has always been among the most important skills a person can develop. The ability to read opens up doors personally, professionally, and creatively. In Tennessee, the Imagination Library created by Dolly Parton has been ensuring that youth state-wide are given the tools to develop reading skills early and carry a love of reading throughout their lives.
The Imagination Library was officially launched in Sevier County, Tennessee in 1995. The program was received very positively, and its effects on children and families garnered national attention. The program was expanded statewide beginning in 2004 and came to Johnson County in 2005.
The program is free to enroll in and is open to any Tennessee child from birth to five years of age. Penguin Random House mails the books out to families monthly and special editions are printed specifically for the program. The high-quality books received are suited for many years of bedtime stories and family time, which can lead to better literacy skills.
“Reading aloud to a child is highly recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition,” said Johnson County Imagination Library Board Co-Chair Betty Brown. “Providing books to the home is a unique opportunity for family engagement, vocabulary and reading skills development.”
Currently, there are 739 Johnson County children enrolled in the Imagination Library program. Families that are enrolled in the program are working to equip their children for learning when they begin school as Brown shared, “Teachers have shared with me how children that have been a part of this program are much more prepared to begin the process of learning to read because of their parents reading the Imagination Library books to
The Imagination Library is well supported by the Johnson County community as residents seek to help the youth of the county succeed. “The community has been great in their support of the program through their donations, allowing us to be a part of community events like the Sunflower Festival and volunteering in our annual carnival,” stated Brown. “We appreciate the community’s support of our children and literacy.”
The Imagination Library Carnival has grown to be a much-anticipated yearly event and the plans for this year’s event promise great fun for the youth of the community. “The carnival will be held at the First Methodist Church due to construction at the library on Tuesday, August 28 from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.,” Brown said. “This event is held to promote family involvement in promoting literacy and interaction for all stakeholders with a children’s author or illustrator as well as have fun participating in events such as the ‘Bouncy House’ and face painting.”
This year’s featured author is Jessica Young, and many opportunities to meet Young and hear her perform will be available over the course of the week. “Children’s author, Jessica Young will be doing presentations for Pre-K through six grades at Heritage Hall August 27, 28 and 29 through a partnership with the Johnson County School System and the Johnson County Community Foundation,” said Brown. “Mrs. Young will also do a presentation for teachers on Monday afternoon, August 27, on the ‘Read to be Ready’ initiative in Tennessee at the School Board Office.”
The Imagination Library program is free to all Tennessee families with preschool age children. To enroll in the program, parents can visit www.imaginationlibrary.com or visit the Johnson County Library.