Amazon Champions Early Childhood Literacy in Tennessee with $25,000 Donation to Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation

First Lady Crissy Haslam thanks world’s largest online retailer for supporting statewide Imagination Library

At an event today hosted by the Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam thanked Amazon – the world’s largest online retailer and a statewide partner of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) – for its recent $25,000 contribution to the GBBF and Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library.

The money will be distributed evenly among the four counties where Amazon has fulfillment centers – Bradley, Hamilton, Rutherford and Wilson – and used to provide free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to preschool children (ages 0-5) living in those areas. Mrs. Haslam joined Theresa Carl, GBBF president, in thanking Amazon for its generosity, citing the tremendous impact the gift will make in recipient communities.

“Bill and I are extremely grateful for Amazon’s desire to positively impact the communities where its employees live and work,” Mrs. Haslam said. “The benefits children can gain from reading and listening to books early in life are invaluable.”

The company known for shipping its iconic packages to consumers’ doorsteps is helping the GBBF and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library put books in the mailboxes of Tennessee’s youngest readers.

“As the world’s leading online retailer, Amazon has become virtually synonymous with ‘books,’ and its generous gift of $25,000 to the GBBF only strengthens that association,” Carl said. “We are truly grateful to Amazon for its commitment to ensuring that free books reach preschool children and investing in their growth and development.”

Sanjay Shah, Amazon’s director of regional operations for Tennessee, was on hand to read a book to preschoolers at the day care center and present a check to the GBBF, expressing his company’s continuing support for the cause of early childhood literacy.

“Literacy is the gateway to success in all facets of life,” Shah said. “Amazon is thrilled to partner with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to help instill a love of reading in our children, which stirs the imagination and later fosters critical and innovative thinking–values we prize at Amazon. On behalf of the thousands of Amazon associates in Tennessee, I want to thank the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation for providing us with this opportunity to give back.”

All of Tennessee’s 408,000 children under age five have access to the Imagination Library, and an Imagination Library program affiliate exists in all 95 counties in the state. Begun by Dolly Parton in 1996 as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn., the Imagination Library mails one new, high-quality, age-appropriate book every month to registered children, from birth until age five – at no cost to families and regardless of income. Over 17 million books have been delivered since the GBBF’s inception in October 2004. Approximately $24 annually (or $2 per book) provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to one child. With funding support from the Tennessee General Assembly, various foundations, individual donors, and a host of private corporate sponsors, the GBBF matches ($12 per book, per child) all funds raised by each of Tennessee’s Imagination Library program affiliates – a dynamic public-private partnership unlike any other in the U.S.

Tennessee is the only state to have the Imagination Library program in every one of its counties.

An increasing amount of research points to the universally positive impact of having books in the home. Imagination Library participants from both low-income and middle-income households arrive to kindergarten more prepared to learn than non-participants. A 2010 study indicated that simply having more books around the house correlates to a child’s completing more years of formal education. In January of this year, a team of researchers concluded that reading to a child in an interactive style can raise the child’s IQ by as much as six points.

Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out later. In a recent study conducted by the Urban Child Institute, research showed that programs like the Imagination Library lead to early childhood language development, school readiness, grade progression, on-time graduation and college attendance.

“The benefit of putting books in the hands of Tennessee’s preschoolers is truly immeasurable,” Carl said.