Delta Dental Partners with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to Purchase Books for Pre-K and Head Start Classrooms in All 95 Tennessee Counties

Delta Dental Partners with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to Purchase Books for Pre-K and Head Start Classrooms in All 95 Tennessee Counties

Delta Dental of Tennessee CEO Phil Wenk and GBBF President Theresa Carl commemorate project by reading sample Imagination Library books to recipient Pre-K classroom in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Delta Dental of Tennessee has partnered with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) to provide 1,022 sample sets of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library books to state-funded Pre-K and Head Start classrooms in all 95 counties in Tennessee. The books arrived in classrooms in early May, and to commemorate the project Delta Dental of Tennessee President and CEO, Phil Wenk, D.D.S., and GBBF President Theresa Carl, today read to recipient Pre-K classes at Bordeaux Enhanced Option Elementary School.

A reprise of a similar 2006 project that provided sample book sets to every Head Start classroom in the state, this year’s effort sent the book sets to every state-funded Pre-K classroom in Tennessee, as well as all Head Start classrooms formed since 2006. The project was made possible through a $50,000 grant by Delta Dental of Tennessee to the GBBF for the fiscal year ending 2013. Since 2005, the company has given $425,000 to the GBBF and Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library.

”Delta Dental of Tennessee is privileged to be a part of such a dynamic program that has the potential to reach all of our young children across the state,” said Wenk. “We believe that a more educated society is a healthier society, and we are committed to the idea that early childhood education and improved health outcomes go hand in hand.”

The sample book set project represents an effort on behalf of the GBBF to directly impact underserved communities in the classroom.

“Our mission focuses on ensuring that all Tennessee children from birth to age five have access to free, high-quality, age-appropriate Imagination Library books, regardless of family income,” Carl said. “Delta Dental’s generosity enabled us to find a creative way to reach children who might not otherwise receive exposure to this amazing program.”

Carl added that the project’s objectives are to boost public awareness of the Imagination Library in Tennessee’s economically disadvantaged communities, and to enhance the resources available to children in those communities’ Pre-K and Head Start classrooms.   

“Educators in these classrooms work hard to prepare preschool children for kindergarten,” Carl said. “Along with Delta Dental of Tennessee, we hope the sample Imagination Library book sets can play a key role in facilitating that process.”

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. Tennessee is the only state to have full county participation in the program.

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. Nearly 18 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 small businesses, and a host of private corporate sponsors, the GBBF matches ($12 per book, per child) all funds raised by each of the state’s Imagination Library affiliates – a dynamic public-private partnership unlike any other in the U.S.

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 published a paper in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science that reading to a child in an interactive style can raise the child’s IQ by as much as six points.

”By introducing young children to the books through this program, we hope it will encourage more parents to enroll their children in the Books from Birth program and help them get books in their homes as well,” said Wenk. “This is an exceptional program that we hope to see more positive outcomes as enrollment increases and the children introduced to the program at young ages are now moving through the school systems across the state.”

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.

About the GBBF:
The mission of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation is to sustain and strengthen Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in all 95 Tennessee counties, ensuring that new, age-appropriate books are mailed to Tennessee’s preschool children, at no cost to the family and regardless of income. To learn how to support your county’s Imagination Library program, or for information on how to register a child, visit, or call toll-free at 1-877-99-BOOKS.

About Delta Dental of Tennessee: 
Delta Dental of Tennessee, with its affiliates in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina and Ohio collectively are among the largest dental plan administrators in the nation. In 2011, the enterprise paid out $2.2 billion for dental treatment for 8.6 million enrollees. Offices are located in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn.; Indianapolis and Greenwood, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; Okemos and Farmington Hills, Mich.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; and Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio.