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franklin county times

Community Education welcomes participants, donations for Imagination Library

Photo by Alison James Ashley and Jonathan and children Simmie Grace and McKelvey (left) are just one of the families who enjoy participation in Imagination Library in Franklin County.
Photo by Alison James
Ashley and Jonathan and children Simmie Grace and McKelvey (left) are just one of the families who enjoy participation in Imagination Library in Franklin County.

For mom Jessica, Imagination Library has been a great thing for her children: Kayden (3), who started participating at 3 months, and Karrah (7), who started participating at 2 years old. “They both love to listen to someone read, and now she can read to him. We’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a tremendous help.”

Imagination Library is a preschool literacy program for children from birth to 5 that was first started by Dolly Parton in 1996 in Sevier County, Tenn., where Parton grew up. It came to Franklin County in 2006, managed by Community Education in Belgreen, and outreach educator Carla Hutto said she has personally seen how the program has helped children in the county.

“I think reading is the cornerstone of all education,” Hutto said. “If you learn to read, you will be educated – I believe that with all my heart. Reading is just the bedrock of all – if it’s nothing more than reading a sign out on the road or being able to find what you want in a store. We all have to be able to read.”

More than 200 children in Franklin County currently benefit from receiving one book per month in the mail through being enrolled in the program. Johnine Rhodes and daughter MaKagan are active participants. A favorite story is “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” according to Rhodes. “We’ve read it so many times, she knows it word-for-word.” Cousins Brantley (9) and Case (6) also participated until they aged out. “Nana” Deb Jones used to work with Community Education and so knows first-hand – through her experience with Community Education as well as her perspective as a grandmother – how instrumental Imagination Library is in promoting literacy. “The kids love when they get their books – love to sit down and look through them. Even before they could read they would sit there and look through, look at the pictures.”

Communities that want to participate in the Imagination Library must make the program available to all preschool children in the area who want to participate. The community must then come up with funds for the books and the mailing, and they must promote the program and register the children.

Funding, however, has become a problem. This program is free to the participants, but Hutto said the money to fund it has to come from somewhere. Grants have come from the RC&D Council year after year, but Hutto is also hoping for donations from corporations, civic groups and individuals.

It takes $30 per year to supply books for one child. That’s $150 per child for the entire time in the program – just for that one child. So while $30, $100 and $200 donations are appreciated, Hutto said, those funds don’t go very far. She’s hoping to find groups and businesses willing to give large donations yearly to make sure the program continues in Franklin County.

The Grimes family – mom Ashley, dad Jonathan, Simmie Grace (4) and McKelvey (1) – also enjoy the program. “My No, No, No Day” is a favorite title. “We read that all the time,” Ashley said. “I love being able to get the books every month and read to them.” She said Simmie Grace asks all the time if a new book has come in the mail yet.

Ella (2) and Addie (5) also enjoy the stories they receive each month. “We like to sit down at night and read our books,” mom Kelli Gilbert said. “People definitely need to sign up and take advantage of the program … I think it’s a good service.”

Anyone who would like more information about Imagination Library or who would like to donate can contact Hutto at 256-331-0005.