One of the most famous country musicians in the world will be giving books to the youngest Whidbey Island residents.
The Whidbey Community Foundation recently became an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. All Whidbey Island families who have children under the age of 5 can sign up to receive free books delivered monthly to their home.
The Whidbey Community Foundation is an organization that helps donors make meaningful contributions and long-term investments in the island’s health and vitality.
The Imagination Library was created in 1995 by Parton in order to help young children develop a love for reading, no matter what their family’s income is. The program originally began in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton grew up. It has since expanded to four countries. According to the program’s website, over 2 million children are currently involved in the program.
The goal of the Imagination Library is to help children develop a lifelong love of reading.
“It’s gotten high accolades at the federal level,” said Jessie Gunn, executive director of the Whidbey Community Foundation. “Recently there’s been an effort to expand it across all the counties in Washington.”
State legislature passed a bipartisan bill earlier this year to subsidize the cost of the program. The average cost to sponsor a child for one year went from $20 to about $12.50.
Gunn called the Imagination Library a great fit for the Whidbey Community Foundation. Early learning is a key focus of the foundation, and the program has proven to increase school readiness. As the children grow older, the books sent to them increase in complexity.
“It just felt like a win-win for the community and for what we’re looking to do,” she said.
As of Jan. 9, over 300 kids on Whidbey Island have already enrolled in the program. Gunn said the total number of eligible children on Whidbey is around 4,000, and the foundation has a goal to register all of them.
To enroll, parents can visit whidbeyfoundation.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library/ or go directly to imaginationlibrary.com. All children are eligible for the program until their fifth birthday, regardless of family income.
Gunn explained that the foundation received two generous donations to get the program up and running for one year. She hopes the program will continue long into the future. Visit whidbeyfoundation.org/support-the-foundation/ to learn how to sponsor a child.