The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is an international (USA, Canada and UK) program sparked by Dolly’s vision to foster a love of reading among pre-school children and their families by providing a gift of a specially selected book every month from birth to age 5. The books are of high quality, age appropriate and directly mailed to every child who is registered in the program, postage prepaid. More than 700,000 children are currently registered in three countries.
In Robeson County this program is sponsored by United Way of Robeson County and is now funded by donations to that organization as a result of the Dancing with the Stars annual event, The Partnership for Children, Book’em and private donations. United Way pays the Parton Library for the books — $30-$35 a year — for each child who will receive 12 new books, one a month, mailed directly to the registered child at his/her home address. Thus, $3,500 will send 100 children a total of 1,200 free books each year.
The Parton Library program only required a parent or guardian to sign a simple registration from giving the name, address, sex and date of birth of a child under the age of 5 and have the form delivered to United Way’s Lumberton office at 2512-A Fayetteville Road, Lumberton, N.C., 28358, in order to start the books coming to the child every month. The only requirements is that the child must live in Robeson County. For information, call United Way at is 910-739-4249.
All registrations for children can be made at many locations: Southeastern Regional Medical Center, when a child is born; any public library in the county; and some daycare centers, all of which will deliver the forms to United Way’s office; or by leaving the form at United Way’s Lumberton office.
At present United Way has seen 2,000 children registered in the program and about 500 will drop this year when they reach their fifth birthday. However, another 500 or more will join this year to replace those leaving. We need to increase the number of children in the program as well as the funding.
These are safeguard built into the programs. All records are entered on software, downloaded to the Parton Library, and when a child reaches the age of 5 the child is automatically removed from the mailing list. If the U.S. Postal Service can no longer deliver the book because of a wrong address, the book is returned to the post office and United Way picks up the book and has the named is removed from the mailing list.
We all know that pre-school education is the best way to encourage our children to become interested in reading and to promote their ability to remain in school at peer level. Supporting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library through United Way is the least expensive and most promising way to ingrain reading, a basic start of learning, in the hearts and minds of our pre-school youth. Please help United Way do it by your financial help and spreading the word.
Horace Stacy Jr. is a retired attorney and has been active in past United Way campaigns.