Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are working together to bring books to North Carolina’s youngest children through funding provided by the North Carolina General Assembly.
During the 2017 legislative session, North Carolina state lawmakers included $3.5 in the first year of the budget and $7 million in the second year for the Smart Start network to offer free books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to children across the state. Imagination Library is a program created to foster a love of reading among children aged birth to five through the gift of a specially selected book delivered right to their home each month. The program ensures that every child born has books, regardless of their family’s income.
“I’m thrilled that my Imagination Library is going to be offered to so many children in North Carolina,” stated Dolly Parton, the founder of Imagination Library. “Working together we can help children dream more, learn more, care more, and be more.”
Stokes Partnership for Children, Stokes County’s local Smart Start agency, has been offering the Imagination Library since January 2015 using proceeds from private fundraising efforts, primarily through an annual event BBQ for Books. Currently, 50 percent of the age eligible children are being served.
With the expansion, Stokes Partnership for Children will initially receive $5,810 for fiscal year 2017-18 to help administer the program.
“Our state leaders clearly understand how important an early love of reading is for each child’s success in school and later in life,” stated Cindy Watkins, the President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children that oversees the Smart Start network, “Smart Start works in every community to ensure young children have a strong foundation for starting kindergarten – now we can offer this important literacy program to that critical work.”
According to Cindy Tuttle, the Executive Director of Stokes Partnership for Children, “We are delighted that these funds have been allocated by our state legislators. It has been several years since Smart Start has seen an increase in funding, especially since the deep cuts we received a few years ago. We concur that early literacy is a great place for the State to make an investment. With our continued fundraising efforts, these new funds will allow us to serve 100 percent of the eligible children in Stokes County. Now our challenge is to get the word out so we can reach all of the eligible kids.”
The statewide effort will begin in 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, including Stokes. Because the program is offered by zip code, the initial launch will cover 85 percent of NC zip codes expanding to cover every county by the second year.
To find out more about Stokes Partnership for Children, Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partnership, and to check availability and register a child, visit www.stokespfc.com.