Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has given the Richmond County Partnership for Children $13,065 to spread the word about its mission to give free books to preschoolers.
Last fall, the Partnership received $6,800 out of $10.5 million that the N.C. General Assembly set aside over two years so the state’s Smart Start program — of which the Partnership is a member — could work with the Imagination Library.
But none of the money given out last year could be used for publicity, something the local Partnership sorely needs. It has only 448 of the 1,000 children it had hoped to reach with the Imagination Library.
“We’re at about the halfway mark,” local program coordinator Mamie Legrand said Monday. That does not include 272 children who enrolled but then aged out of the program, which gives free books only until a child reaches his or her fifth birthday.
Even though the Partnership has not been able to advertise, Partnership Executive Director Martha Vance Brown told directors in a recent letter, “our current success with the DPIL is through hard work and getting out there to where the children are, word of mouth, informal meeting, speaking to other non-profits, following up on each lead, not dropping the ball, just followup, followup, and more followup.”
“Where the children are” includes the County Health Department and pediatricians’ offices, as well as the public school system.
According to census figures from 2016, Richmond County is home to nearly 3,000 children 5 and younger. But the Partnership’s slice of the grant pie — $6,800 — isn’t big enough to reach them all.
The money allotted through the legislature has gone to 97 other North Carolina counties as well. The additional marketing money has gone to 46 other entities besides Richmond County’s.
Richmond County’s Partnership administers the Reach Out and Read early-literacy program, which places books and other reading materials at local pediatricians’ offices and the county health department. Legrand manages that program, which also collects children’s ZIP codes for the Imagination Library mail-outs.
Parton, famous for her figure and her voice, often talks about her impoverished childhood. Her “Coat of Many Colors,” an early hit, tells how Parton’s mother fashioned a new winter coat for her from colorful scraps.
In 1995, Parton began Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Initially, she sent an age-appropriate book each month to each baby to pre-kindergartner in her home county in eastern Tennessee. The book mail-out was intended to ensure a love of reading in both children and their parents, something that would make children more ready for school.
The program has grown from a few dozen books sent out monthly to more than 80 million sent, through partnerships, to more than 1 million children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to information from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
For more information about Smart Start and the Imagination Library, visit www.smartstart.org.dolly-parton-imagination-library/ or call Legrand at 910-997-3773, Ext. 25.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]