Since the Dolly Parton Imagination Library opened in January for children in Little River County and the Ashdown School District, the program has enrolled 200 who will receive free books in their home mailboxes.
"Children in the Ashdown School District from birth to age 5 will receive a book each month from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Program beginning eight to 10 weeks after registration. Children can receive up to 60 books," said Ronda Pounds, public relations coordinator for the Ashdown School District.
Parton is a singer and songwriter familiar with Little River County.
Kent Wells, a member of Parton's band, is a 1981 graduate of Ashdown High School honored Sept. 30, 2017, by the Ashdown High School Alumni Association. Parton honored Wells by performing at the banquet and a jam session in an outdoor concert.
The Ashdown Community Foundation subsequently sought to participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
To receive the books, parents must register at the Administration Building at 751 Rankin St., then mail a form to Ashdown Community Foundation, Inc. (P.O. Box 909, Ashdown, AR 71822) or register online at https://imaginationlibrary.com/.
"This is a book program that mails free books to children in participating communities," Pounds said.
"Dolly Parton was inspired to start the program in 1995 because her father was unable to read. Today, over 1 million free books are mailed each month to four countries. Her vision was to foster a love of reading among her county's preschool children and their families providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month," she said.
"We could not partner with the Dollywood Foundation to bring the Imagination Library to Little River County without the support of school superintendent Jason Sanders and the Ashdown School District. We are excited to offer these excellent books free of charge to any child between the age of birth to five years old. We expect great things such as increasing kindergarten readiness, improving reading ability and overall literary knowledge," said Tyler Davis, county chairperson for the Little River Imagination Library.
"We are excited to see this program come to Little River County and in the first quarter we have about 200 kids enrolled. By placing books in the children's life of birth to age 5, the partnership with the library is estimated to save our school districts 10 to 20 times the current mount being spent to remediate."
Dr. Charlotte Green, executive director of the Arkansas Imagination Library, was a guest speaker at a recent Ashdown Rotary Club meeting regrading the Dolly Parton library program.
"The greatest return on investment in human capital happens prior to a child's first birthday and begins to diminish from that point forward so it is very important to start this type of program at an early age to help them develop the pre-reading and reading skills so they are more likely to graduate workforce ready, college bound, without remediation, and on the path to becoming fully productive members of society," Green said.