Books from Birth, Niswonger Foundation Partner On New Hospital Book Initiative

Niswonger grant helps expand enrollment program in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library through Northeast Tennessee Hospitals; first book given to newborn families who enroll before leaving the hospital

Nashville, TENN. – The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) and the Niswonger Foundation today announced their new partnership aimed at increasing early enrollment of Northeast Tennessee children in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) program.  Parents who enroll newborns before leaving the hospital will be given the first book, The Little Engine That Could, as an incentive to begin reading aloud with their children beginning at birth, an activity proven to support early childhood literacy.

This partnership will enable the GBBF’s “Birthing Hospital Initiative” to expand across Northeast Tennessee, starting with the three Mountain States Health Alliance hospitals – Indian Path Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital and Johnson City Medical Center. In 2014, more than 3,200 deliveries were performed in those three hospitals combined.

“Our Foundation is proud to join in partnership with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to inspire families to read to their children.  The earlier children are introduced to books and stories, the greater the likelihood that they will develop the literacy skills that can lead to their success in school.” said Niswonger Foundation Chairman and Founder, Scott M. Niswonger.

Dr. Nancy Dishner, Niswonger Foundation President and CEO added, “We are honored to be able to present the very first book to the family of each child born in our region.  Symbolically, this represents our desire to ensure that every child has an opportunity to develop early literacy skills.  Research is clear that early language and learning are directly linked to families reading to children.” 

The GBBF is committed to enrolling more newborns into the program, giving them the benefit of receiving their own library of up to 60 books upon reaching age five. Research on Tennessee’s Imagination Library program has demonstrated that participating children begin kindergarten better prepared to read and learn than non-participants, regardless of economic background.

“We know that literacy is tied to good health, and that childhood literacy is key to lifelong learning,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance. “Mountain States is excited to participate in this initiative to give children a head start on that learning journey before they even leave the hospital.”

The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, housed in the Office of the First Lady, partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to manage the statewide implementation of the Imagination Library program.

“Bill and I are grateful that the Niswonger Foundation is helping to enroll more children in the Imagination Library program at birth,” said First Lady Crissy Haslam.  “Early literacy skills start children on a developmental trajectory for success, and we are glad this initiative encourages more Tennessee children to experience books and reading as soon as they are born.”

GBBF president, Theresa Carl agreed, “This initiative will raise awareness about Tennessee’s Imagination Library and its accessibility to all Tennessee children, ages birth to five. These partners represent the perfect alignment of resources around a common belief in the mission to help Tennessee’s children increase their early reading proficiency.”

About the Niswonger Foundation

Established in 2001 by Scott M. Niswonger, the Niswonger Foundation’s mission is “To create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects.” The Foundation’s primary programs are the Scholarship and Leadership Program, and the School Partnership Program.  Additional information regarding the work of the Foundation is available at

About Mountain States Health Alliance

Since 1998, Mountain States Health Alliance has been bringing the nation’s best health care close to home to serve the residents of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina. This not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates a family of 13 hospitals serving a 29-county region. Mountain States offers a large tertiary hospital with a level 1 trauma center, a dedicated children’s hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, two long-term care facilities, home care and hospice services, retail pharmacies, outpatient services, and a comprehensive medical management corporation. The team members, physicians and volunteers who make up Mountain States Health Alliance are committed to caring for you and earning your trust. For more information, visit

About the GBBF

Tennessee’s Imagination Library is available to all Tennessee children, ages birth to age five, through a unique partnership with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation that grants one-half of the cost of books for the Imagination Library affiliates in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, mailing one new, age-appropriate, high-quality book each month to registered children. The GBBF receives vital financial support from the Tennessee General Assembly, private foundations, individuals, and corporate sponsors. An annual gift of about $25 provides 12 books for one child per year. For more information on how to support your local Imagination Library program or how to enroll a child, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-99-BOOKS.