By Yustin Riopko
MONROE – Singer, songwriter and celebrity Dolly Parton is giving books to children in Union County.
The Alliance for Children – a Monroe nonprofit focused on investing in young children and equipping them for success – teamed up with Parton’s Imagination Library to introduce a branch here.
Imagination Library is an international book-gifting program that began in 1995 in Parton’s home county of Sevier, Tennessee. By 2004, Imagination Library had expanded to all of the state. Today, the program ships more than one million books, including braille and audio books, as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia.
In November, the North Carolina General Assembly decided to fund partnerships between Imagination Library and Smart Start-affiliated nonprofits – including Monroe’s Alliance for Children. Legislators set out a plan to distribute $3.5 million statewide this year and $7 million next year. Union County has received more than $8,000 – enough for 1,437 subscription memberships. The county now services 1,700 kids and growing.
Families with kids up to age 5 who sign up receive one high quality book per month – for free.
Alliance for Children
Executive Director Linda Smith said reading at such a young age is critical, because that’s when children are developing the most.
“Every child deserves a home library,” Smith said. “There are so many people who don’t have that in their home. The books that come are developmentally appropriate and tailored specifically to age, offering different experiences. It’s one of those treasures every child needs.”
Union County children in the zip codes 28110, 28112, 28103 and 28174 are eligible. Implementation of the remaining zip code areas will take place in 2019.
“I’m thrilled that my Imagination Library is going to be offered to so many children in North Carolina,” Parton said in a statement last year after the state committed to the program. “Working together we can help children dream more, learn more, care more and be more.”
Alliance for Children is affiliated with North Carolina Pre-K and provides 14 programs that support children, families and educators.
The Best Start program is a partnership between Alliance for Children and public school counselors to provide support for school-age moms. Circle of Parents is another effort, which connects parents of children with special needs.
Visit www.TheAlliance ForChildren.org for more information.