Children 5 and younger in Charlottesville and Albemarle County can receive up to 60 free books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, the Rotary Club of Charlottesville announced Thursday.
The Rotary Club has sponsored the program, which sends one book a month to registered children, since 2015, though it was only available to children in three ZIP codes covering primarily the city of Charlottesville. After testing out the program logistics and figuring out funding, Rotary Club members decided to expand the program.
“We’re pretty confident that we can sustain the funding,” said Jennifer King, a Rotary member and project lead.
King said they’ve worked with area preschool programs and community groups such as ReadyKids to make sure that children in need were signed up for the free books. Since 2015, the club has provided nearly 20,000 books to more than 1,000 children. Currently, 503 children are on the mailing list.
“But really, the program is designed to be made available to every child in the community,” King said.
King added that limiting the program to children residing in the 22901, 22902, and 22903 ZIP codes had made it challenging to publicize the opportunity.
If a child is signed up at birth, they’ll receive 60 books before graduating from the program at age 5.
King said the books are age-appropriate and two to three a year are available in English and Spanish.
The Dollywood Foundation handles the logistics of getting the books to registered children, King said.
The goals of the Imagination Library, which launched in 1995, include increasing age-appropriate reading material in the home, building literacy skills, fostering a love of reading and encouraging parent-child reading, according to a news release.
If they could find more community sponsors, King said they would love to expand the Imagination Library to surrounding communities. The Rotary started with limited funding and is continuing to see donations to support the program. An annual contribution of $50 supports a year’s worth of books for a child.
“Donations are greatly appreciated,” King said. “It would help fund another child in the community who might not be able to access it, but nobody has to pay for it. Our club is committed to paying for it.”
To register or donate, visit imaginationlibrary.com/usa/affiliate/VACHARLOTTESVILLE/.
Moving forward, King said club members are excited about bringing together community partners that they’ve worked with over the years and expanding beyond the delivery of books to perhaps reading with the children.
“We look forward to enhancing our relationships with community partners who have helped drive registrations in the program by being able to serve more children in their coverage areas,” Rotary Club President Stan Gilbert said in the release. “We are grateful for continued community support through donations, which help us to sustain and grow the program.”