January 2020 marks the eighth year that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program has been providing free books to children under the age of five in Letcher County, regardless of family income. In January 2012, the first month the program was in operation, 52 children were registered. Eight years later, 1,655 children have received books through the program, and 631 are currently receiving books.
The program was started in 1995 by country music singer Dolly Parton in Sevier County, Tenn. Her father’s inability to read or write was her inspiration to start the program in hopes that children would develop a love of reading and learning. The program is now available throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
Children under five years of age can be registered online at www.imaginationlibrary.com or by completing a registration form available at any location of Whitaker Bank and Community Trust Bank in Letcher County. The first book a child receives is The Little Engine That Could and features an introduction by Dolly Parton. A child registered at birth can receive 58 free books before graduating from the program. The last book a child receives is Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.
The program in Letcher County is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Whitesburg and funded through donations made to the Whitesburg Rotary Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. All donations made to the Imagination Program are tax-deductible. To learn how you can support the program by sponsoring a child at the cost of $25 annually, contact Margaret Hammonds at 606-821-8165, or Barbara Ison at 606-634-2106.