Bedford County Imagination Library Celebrates 10 Years

February 3, 2016

On January 29, an event celebrated the Bedford County Imagination Library 10 year anniversary, recognized the many steadfast volunteers over the years and sought to raise awareness in the greater community. The event also raised money to attract additional volunteers and get more books to children in the county. The Shelbyville Times Gazette ran a great story about the event! We have included excerpts from the article below. You can link to the full article by clicking here.

Excerpts from the Shelbville Times Gazette:

A book can be a stepping stone to literacy, which can be a stepping stone to education, which can be a stepping stone to a successful, productive adult life.

So proponents of the Imagination Library program say that giving to the program is a way of investing in the community.

Spreading word

State Rep. Pat Marsh hosted a luncheon on Friday at First Community Bank to promote Imagination Library, which sends a free book to any Tennessee child every month from birth through age 5. At the end of the process, the child has a library of 60 books.

"It really is doing a lot of good for our children in the State of Tennessee," said Marsh.

Imagination Library was founded in 1996 by entertainer Dolly Parton to serve her home county, Sevier County, in East Tennessee. Today, the program is worldwide, although Tennessee is the only U.S. state where it's available in every county to every child. More than 25 million books have been distributed in Tennessee alone.

Many benefits

Cynthia Crane, outreach coordinator for the Governor's Books From Birth Foundation, outlined for luncheon guests the many benefits of exposing children to books at an early age.

"It's about exploration, and intellectual stimulation, and quality time together," said Crane.

But too many children don't get those benefits. Crane said 35 percent of kindergarteners arrive unprepared to learn, and 50 percent of third graders read below their grade level. Children in low-income households hear 30 million fewer words by age 4, she said.

And the effects of early illiteracy don't go away. Children who lack basic literacy by the time they start school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school later.

All eligible

Enrollment in Imagination Library is open to every child, no matter what their income level or status. In 2014, however, only 36 percent of those eligible for the program were signed up.

By the end of 2015, that had been raised to 49 percent, and it's now 51 percent -- just barely more than half, although a rapid improvement in just two years, said Trish Hubbard, who heads up Bedford County's Imagination Library program.

Hubbard said the program is trying to continue to build momentum and is seeking financial support from individuals, businesses, churches and governments in Bedford County. Those attending Friday's luncheon were given pledge cards to fill out.

Money needed

"Give us some money," said Marsh, "so we can continue this great program." He said that since high school graduates earn $10,000 per year more than those without a diploma, investing in education and childhood development will reap rewards for the economy and the community.

For more information about the program, call Hubbard at 931-735-6193 or go to GovernorsFoundation.org.