Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gaining support in Cavalier County

For many parents, trying to find books that their children will be interested in can be challenging.

imagination library

Posted on 8/1/15

By Melissa Anderson

First time parents especially can struggle and rely on others to help provide guidance on what books to read to their young children. Some might even wish there was a way to just have books sent to them every month. Luckily, Dolly Parton created just such a program.

Andrea Jacobson first heard about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library when her oldest daughter was born several years ago and found out that it wasn’t offered in Cavalier County. Flash forward to 2015 and a series of events that would bring the program back into Jacobson’s sphere again when the program was started in Pembina County around same time that Jacobson’s grandfather passed away.

“We had memorial money that we weren’t sure what to do with and I thought, what a better tribute to him then to use it towards broadening the Imagination Library to reach even more children,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson contacted the person who started it in Pembina County to learn more about the startup process and after talking with her, decided to take the initiative to get it started in Cavalier County.

The Imagination Library was originally started in 1995 by Dolly Parton for the children in her hometown of Sevier County. The programs purpose is to inspire a love of reading and guarantees all children registered will have quality books in the home.

“The program is about inspiration and imagination,” Jacobson said.

The Imagination Library program expanded from Sevier County in 2000 and launched a nationwide replication to bring books and a love of reading to as many children as possible in the United States. The success of the national expansion caused the program to be launched in Canada in 2006 and in the United Kingdom in 2007.

The program has had a monumental impact and currently has almost 1 million children participating in the program in the United States alone. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library sends out over 1 million books a month and since it was launched nationally and internationally, over 10 million books have been sent to children across the world

“The Dollywood Foundation partners with communities who are willing to bring this gift of reading to the children of their area,” Jacobson said.

There are countless benefits to this program. The major benefit is promoting and encouraging reading at a young age which helps children begin school with a strong ability to read and learn. This will subsequently strengthen literacy levels in the Cavalier County area. Another benefit to the program is that it promotes parent-child interaction and bonding.

There are several community members involved in bringing this program to Cavalier County. A local affiliate, currently Jacobson, will enter Cavalier County registrations into the Imagination Library system and oversee the implementation of the program in Cavalier County. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library Foundation actually does the mailing of the books and the administrative back-end of the operation.

As part of the registration process, one of the requirements is that the local affiliate must partner with a non-profit to launch the program locally.

“The Northern Lights Arts Council (NLAC) has been gracious enough to agree to be a partner in this endeavor. They are helping get this set up and implemented,” Jacobson said.

The NLAC is already cooperating with the Cavalier County Library in bringing book discussions to the community and contribute to the Langdon Area Elementary School when they bring in a speaker to the school during Reading Month. The Imagination Library program fits right in with what the NLAC is currently doing to encourage the love of reading.

“We like to support community programs that are involved with the arts,” Carol Hart of NLAC said.

First Lady Betsy Dalrymple also supports this program and discussed it with Hart a few years ago. At that time it didn’t work for the NLAC to be involved but with Jacobson’s help, the NLAC is happy to help bring it to Langdon at this time. First Lady Betsy Dalrymple is currently promoting Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library throughout the state. Dalrymple is proud to report that in North Dakota there are 21 counties, 15 cities, and 19 school districts that currently offer Imagination Library.

Any child who lives in Cavalier County and is between the ages of birth and 5 years old can register to begin receiving a book. If a child were to be enrolled the entire time, from birth to their 5th birthday, they will receive a total of 60 books with one book arriving every month to be read to them or for them to read themselves.

The books themselves are carefully selected. The books are chosen annually by a panel of early childhood development specialists. Some of the books are more well known favorites such as “Madeline” and “Llama Llama Nighty Night” to new books to the list like “Sassy: Let’s Count” and “Fly Butterfly”. The joy of reading is sure to be instilled with such great reads.

The most recent census shows an estimated 185 children will be eligible for the program at any given time in Cavalier County. At $25 a child per year, the need to look to area businesses and individuals to make this wonderful community program successful is imperative. All donations will stay locally and are only used for the books and postage for children in Cavalier County to receive the books.

“Our goal would be to have as many preschoolers in Cavalier County registered as possible” Jacobson said.

The success of the program hinges on having enough financial support to cover those who enroll, the program directors will do everything they can to make sure that they have enough funds for as many as want to be registered. This is a free program to those enrolled and those families registered will not be required or expected to give anything at any time.

“We will sign-up as many children who we have funds for,” Jacobson said.

With all the prepartion work completed to get this program started in Langdon the big push now is for community support in terms of funding the program. Without it the program can not get off the ground and start supplying books to the children of Cavalier County.

“The community partners fund the cost of the books, postage and mailing. Community Partners register children and promote the program while the Dollywood Foundation covers all the administrative costs,” Jacobson explained.

The program needs to have local support in the form of funding in order for the program to operate. The funding will be required to cover the cost of books and the postage to get the book to any child who enrolls in Cavalier County. Jacobson has already contacted a few local businesses and groups asking for donations to help get the program going.

“I have a couple private donations to start this up,” Jacobson said.

A sign-up drive will be taking place during the Northern Lights Arts Council’s annual “Movie in the Park” on Thursday, August 6 in the Langdon City Park. People will have the opportunity to sign up then. If you are unable to attend that evening, feel free to contact Andrea Jacobson or they will also be accepting online registrations by going to: Jacobson notes that people will not be able to register online until August 15.

If you would like to donate, please make checks out to “Imagination Library” and send them to:

Northern Lights Arts Council

Attn: Andrea Jacobson

PO Box 162

Langdon, ND 58249