Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library & Rotary – helping kids in Noble Park
Dolly Parton’s aim with the Imagination Library is simple: to improve early childhood literacy for children by giving them a free, high-quality, age-appropriate book each month from birth to age five.
As a little girl, Dolly’s dream was to be a writer and singer. Her strong belief is that the seeds of dreams are often found in books, and planting those seeds at an early age will help improve educational opportunities for children.
Which is how the Imagination Library started – from a few dozen books delivered in 1996, the program has seen nearly 40 million books mailed to children across the globe. The Imagination Library (in conjunction with the charity United Way, and Rotary Clubs) now delivers a total of over 650,000 free books a month to children in the US, UK, Canada and, since early 2013, Australia.
United Way Australia is directly funding pilot Imagination Library programs across Australia as part of our ‘Read, Learn, Succeed’ education strategy. Australia-wide, over 1,300 children are now receiving books. Using the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), a test which measures literacy in pre-school children, United Way identifies communities which score poorly on the Index and where the free book scheme would be most beneficial. The goal is to eventually help 40,000 families nationally, from 150 communities.
Mekayla – featured in a recent article in Eclipse – the Online Magazine (pictured here) is one of 99 other children between 18 months and two-years old accessing the Imagination Library funded and facilitated by the Rotary Club of Noble Park in Victoria.
Mekayla’s parents, Cindi and Richard Ashe, who are from Chennai in India, are rapt with the scheme. Like many families, they find books expensive and Richard, a printer by trade, works up to three jobs to support his family, which also includes 14-year-old daughter, Aliskar.
Cindi, who had not heard of Dolly Parton before, says receiving the books brings the whole family together in the learning process, particularly Aliskar who loves to read to her little sister.
“Reading and writing are most important,” Cindi says. “The children look at the pictures then they form their own words then gradually start writing words down; these books are the best thing that has happened for Mekayla.