Dolly Parton grew up in an extremely poor family in the hills of eastern Tennessee. But there was a lot of love, and a lot of good memories came from her childhood.
“They only had one book, and it was the Bible,” said David Dotson, the president of the Dollywood Foundation, who was in Augusta on March 8 to speak at the Rotary Club of Augusta’s third annual Rotary Founders’ Dinner at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.
Parton’s mother read the Old Testament to her children. Another great joy in Parton’s childhood was when the family received the Sears and Roebuck catalog in the mail each year.
“Those were cherished feelings, and she wanted to help re-create these moments for other families,” Dotson said.
Parton’s Imagination Library provides children younger than 5 the opportunity to experience books and receive something in the mail each month for free. The Rotary clubs in the Augusta area came together in September 2009 to form the Greater Augusta Partnership for Literacy, which implements the program in Richmond and Columbia counties. Currently, there are a total of 1,300 children in the two counties who receive an age-appropriate book each month.
“We’ve had a big growth spurt. It went from 250 to 1,300 in six or seven months,” said Charles LaMarsh, a Greater Augusta Partnership for Literacy board member.
However, LaMarsh said, about 25,000 children in the area qualify for the program.
The target is to have about 5,000 children participating by 2013. LaMarsh said that with 20 percent of the demographic participating, there would be measurable impact on test scores in the school systems.
There are only two requirements for participation – a child must be younger than 5 and live in Richmond County or Columbia County. The program costs about $28 per year per child, but families who receive the books do not have to pay.
LaMarsh said parents can enroll their children in the program at any library branch or on the Internet at www.augustaliteracy.org.