Imagination Library 01.20.2010

Written by David Green.

Sitting on the lap of your mother or father, listening to a book being read—it’s a warm, cozy activity that many adults remember with fondness.

Count Dolly Parton among those who treasure the memory. Her Dollywood Foundation has delivered millions of books to children across the country in hopes that they, too, will enjoy reading time on a parent’s lap.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library has arrived in Lenawee County through an effort by the Lenawee Community Foundation.

Any child up through age five is eligible to receive a free hardcover book every month of the year. When a child is enrolled, the Dollywood Foundation first sends a copy of “The Little Engine that Could.” At the end of a child’s eligibility period, “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” arrives at a child’s home.

Parton’s project started in 1996 in her home area of the Smoky Mountains, but in 2008 she made the Imagination Library a nation-wide effort.

Sue Hammersmith and Shelley Hickman of the Lenawee Community Foundation started organizing a local Imagination Library in 2008. They spoke with service groups and individuals raised $46,000 for initial funding, plus a $5,000 endowment fund. Earlier this month, more than 460 children were enrolled.

The cost of the program is $30 a year for each child, although no families are charged a fee. Donations are gratefully accepted from those able to give.

The Lenawee Community Foundation is working in partnership with the county’s six community libraries, including Morenci’s Stair Public Library, in addition to the county library and its five branches.

Parents can enroll children at any library. The cost of the books are paid through donations in local communities; the books are mailed to children directly from the Dollywood Foundation.

It’s not only the enjoyable experience for children that Hammersmith is looking for through the effort. She also expecting to see academic improvements among children involved.

“We believe the Lenawee Imagination Library can increase school success by helping to prepare children to learn in kindergarten and beyond,” she said.

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