The imagination of a child is powerful enough to create effectual change in society at large, and books are the greatest tool used to stoke the fires of his or her imagination.
The Sullivan County Imagination Library (SCIL), the local division of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, strives to ignite a passionate interest in reading in preschool aged children through the monthly distribution of books by mail.
Dolly Parton first launched the child reading project in 1996, for children from birth to age 5, where she grew up in Sevier County, Tenn. Since then, the imaginative efforts of the country music icon proved fruitful with the expansion of the program nationwide and to parts of England and Canada. Today, over 660,000 kids are registered for the Imagination Library in the United States alone.
Sullivan County librarians and residents localized Dolly's literary mission after attending a seminar on the topic in 2003.
“A group of us, librarians and friends of the library, went to a seminar on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library,” said Jan Miles, past president of SCIL. “We all came home thinking it was a good idea... And, of course, quickly other people joined us.”
The SCIL officially formed in October of 2004 “as a program for the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce,” Miles said. After five years however, SCIL separated from the Chamber of Commerce and became an independent community literacy program.
SCIL is a non-profit 501c3 organization with no personnel costs. Out of a budget fed solely by donations and fundraisers, 98 percent of funds go directly to the purchase of books from the Dollywood Foundation and to the postage to mail them. With roughly 5,000 child participants enrolled in the free book program at any given time, 60,000 books are mailed out by SCIL each year. Since it started, a total of 424,674 books have been mailed to area homes for parents to read to their children.
Imagination Library books are a hand-picked collection of fun and educational age-appropriate stories designed to instill an early love of reading in kids before they enter kindergarten. “The Little Engine That Could” is the first book children receive from the library because, Miles said, “that's Dolly's favorite book.”
“If they start at birth, it's 60 books... [That's] quite a library,” Miles said.
The SCIL board is made up of 24 members Miles described as “a variety of people” who register children and organize fundraisers and events in support of the volunteer organization.
Although the mailing address of SCIL is 149 Pactolus Road in Kingsport, “we work out of our homes,” Miles said.
Upcoming SCIL fundraisers and events include a 5K Run/Walk in August and a Bunco Party in September.
The 5K Run/Walk is the first fundraiser of its kind to be put on by SCIL. It is scheduled for Aug. 11 at Domtar Park, located at 1414 Riverport Road, in Kingsport. There will be children's games at 5 p.m. and, at 6 p.m., the race will begin and follow a level course within the park. Early registration for a timed race is $20. It is $25 the day of the event and $10 for untimed race participants and kids. Those interested in participating can register at http://www.werunevents.com. All proceeds from the run/walk will be matched by funds from the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation and used to buy Imagination Library books for registered Sullivan County Pre-K children.
The Bunco Party, sponsored by Delta Pi Chapter of ESA International, will be held Monday, Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, located at 100 W. Church Circle, in Kingsport. Games will begin at 7 p.m. and snacks will be provided. A minimum donation of $12 is requested to sponsor one year of free books for one child in Sullivan County.
The excitement and anticipation children undergo when they receive a monthly book with their name on it is, as Miles said with a smile, “part of the magic of it.”
For more information on the Sullivan County Imagination Library, visit them on Facebook or on their website at http://scimaginationlibrary.org/. Or call 423-239-1100. Register a child for Imagination Library Books at http://www.imaginationlibrary.com.