A book a month for newborns through children age 5 living in Clay County at no cost to the family! That's what United Way of Vermillion is providing.
In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting, new effort to benefit the children of her home county in Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county's preschool children and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family's income.
So she decided to mail a brand-new, age-appropriate book each month to every child under 5 in Sevier County. With the arrival of the first book, the classic The Little Engine That Could, every child can experience the joy of finding their very own book in their mail box. These moments continue each month until the child turns 5 – and in their very last month in the program they receive Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come.
Needless to say, the experience has been a smashing success – so much so that many other communities clamored to provide the Imagination Library to their children. Dolly thought long and hard about it and decided her foundation should develop a way for other communities to participate. The foundation asked a blue-ribbon panel of experts to select just the right books and secured Penguin Group USA to be the exclusive publisher for the Imagination Library. A database was built to keep track of the information.
In March of 2000 she stood at the podium of the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and revealed the plan for other communities to provide the Imagination Library to their children.
Here is how it works: A community sponsor must make the program accessible to all preschool children in their area. The sponsor pays for the books and mailing, promotes the program, registers the children and enters the information into the database. From there, the Dollywood Foundation takes over and manages the system to deliver the books to the home.
The Imagination Library in Vermillion is supported totally by the donations provided to the United Way of Vermillion and is currently serving 231 children. That means there are 2,772 books going to the children of Clay County on an annual basis. The only requirement is that the child be a resident of Clay County.