A Message from Tennessee’s First Lady

by Crissy Haslam

Welcome to the new online home of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF). I hope you have an opportunity to learn more about the important work the GBBF does in support of Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library, and why that work matters to our state’s children and its families.

My husband is working on bringing jobs to Tennessee, and employers say that their biggest concern is the education of our workforce. As First Lady of Tennessee, I’m focusing my efforts on parent and family engagement in education – and reading is a big part of that. Outside of parental support, reading proficiency has the biggest impact on the likelihood that a child will graduate from high school. In fact, children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 to 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.

The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, plays an important role in laying a strong foundation for children to be ready for school by providing books to children and families starting at the very beginning of a child’s life. The mission of Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library is very dear to me, and I have been involved with the program for some time. When Bill and I lived in Knoxville, I was honored to serve on the Advisory Board to the Knox County Imagination Library. As First Lady of Tennessee, I have enjoyed working closely with the GBBF to continue promoting the program. In fact, the GBBF office relocated next door to my office so that we could more easily collaborate together!

I do not believe that there is a silver bullet to solving challenges in education, but I think that focusing on early reading is an excellent place to start. The Imagination Library is truly one of the best programs in Tennessee for promoting early literacy with children and families, and we are fortunate to have the program in all 95 counties in our state. Bill and I are extremely grateful to be involved with the GBBF and the Imagination Library, and we are thankful for the many volunteers and supporters who generously give of their time and resources to ensure this wonderful program’s success. In 2014 the GBBF will turn 10 years old, and we look forward to many more decades of free books for Tennessee’s youngest readers, one book and one child at a time.