Contact: Whitney Topping
(212) 920-1557

Public-private initiative works to prevent “COVID Slide” and to support student learning in the classroom and in the home

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (October 21, 2020) – Today, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) and the Tennessee Department of Education, in collaboration with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, announced the launch of a new K-3 Book Delivery program to deliver 580,000 books to 58,000 kindergarten through third grade students and teachers across the state.

Over 70 school districts are participating in the K-3 School Year Book Delivery program, which will deliver books and literacy resources directly to the homes of students and teachers, at no cost to families or participating school districts. Book packs consist of ten high-quality, grade appropriate books with guided activities and tips for parents to engage with students as they read. Book packs and resources are expected to be delivered to students’ and teachers’ homes by the end of 2020. Additionally, K-3 families will gain access to engagement tips via text.

The program was introduced today at an early literacy event at Findlay Elementary School in Sparta, TN and included participation from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, GELF President James Pond, White County Schools Superintendent Kurt Dronebarger and Scholastic Education Senior Vice President of Sales Chris Hedrick. There was a special appearance by Clifford the Big Red Dog®, who distributed books to students and teachers in attendance.

“Now more than ever we are committed to our mission of strengthening early literacy in Tennessee by supporting our students and teachers with high-quality resources,” said James Pond, GELF president. “Together with Scholastic and our state partners, we can work to prevent the ‘COVID slide,’ and create a community classroom to foster lifelong learners and to support students, teachers and families during this time.”

“Independent reading and reading-aloud are crucial year-round practices to help support children’s academic and social-emotional development, both in and out the classroom,” said Chris Hedrick, Senior Vice President of Sales, Scholastic Education. “With Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Education, we’re proud to have an opportunity to reach even more Tennessee families with increased access to engaging, high-quality books.”

“The School Year Book Delivery program is an incredible opportunity for our state to make important early literacy gains,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “This partnership could not have come at a more important time, as many students, families and teachers are working hard to make up for classroom time lost last spring. Building literacy skills early is foundational to lifelong educational success and the department is grateful to GELF and Scholastic for their work to expand access to high-quality books and literacy resources and help students and families read together at home.”

Participating districts for the new K-3 Book Delivery program were selected based on size, 2018-2019 third grade reading proficiency rates and the economic prosperity of the county as defined by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Rural districts with lower reading proficiency rates were prioritized, and all three grand regions of the state are represented. Over 70 school districts are confirmed to participate as of this release date. Below is a full list of participating districts.

List of Participating School Districts
Alamo City
Bells City
Benton County
Bledsoe County
Campbell County
Cannon County
Carter County
Chester County
Claiborne County
Clay County
Cocke County
Crockett County
Decatur County
DeKalb County
Dyersburg City
Fayette County
Fayetteville City
Fentress County
Giles County
Grainger County
Grundy County
Hancock County
Hardeman County
Hardin County
Hawkins County
Haywood County
Henderson County
Henry County
Hickman County
Hollow Rock-Bruceton
Houston County
Humboldt City
Humphreys County
Jackson County
Jefferson County
Johnson County
Lake County
Lauderdale County
Lexington City
Marion County
Marshall County
McKenzie SSD
McNairy County
Meigs County
Monroe County
Moore County
Morgan County
Newport City
Obion County
Oneida SSD
Overton County
Paris SSD
Perry County
Pickett County
Polk County
Rhea County
Richard City
Scott County
Sequatchie County
Smith County
South Carroll SSD
Stewart County
Sweetwater City
Trenton SSD
Trousdale County
Unicoi County
Union City
Union County
Van Buren County
Warren County
Wayne County
West Carroll SSD
White County

The new book delivery program comes on the heels of a successful summer reading pilot where GELF and Scholastic distributed 2,100 book packs to students. The response from children, parents and caregivers was overwhelmingly positive, sharing feedback about the excitement of receiving new books in the mail, the joy of sharing stories together and the magic of escaping through a good book.

“The Scholastic book program was a blessing to many of our families,” said Carmen Hayes, principal of Southside Elementary School in Pulaski, Tennessee. “We have dispensed books in the past through the school system, but we found the one with GELF and Scholastic was especially successful because books and materials came directly to students’ homes. Many of the families in our Title I school lack reliable transportation and have not had access to past opportunities as a result. Our neediest students were able to benefit from this program. Also, the high-quality texts were just what our students needed, putting them at the same level of their peers.”

The K-3 School Year Book Delivery program is a part of the At-Home Reading Series to engage students and families to read more at home. Additional supports and family resources will be provided on the department’s Best for All Central: Tennessee’s Hub for Learning and Teaching.

GELF serves as a thought leader, advisor and catalyst to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee by sustaining early literacy programs for children statewide. In addition to the K-3 Book Delivery program, GELF also provides a Birth-5 Book Delivery program through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Storybook Trails, Book Buses that deliver resources to communities in need and a Caregiver Engagement program that provides families with resources to help children develop early literacy skills through reading and learning together. Since the beginning of the pandemic, GELF has distributed more than 2.5 million books across Tennessee.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact

About Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF)
The mission of Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) is to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee by acting as a thought leader, advisor and catalyst to support and sustain early literacy programs for children statewide. These programs include Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Storybook Trails, Book Buses, K-3rd Grade Book Delivery and Caregiver Engagement. GELF was founded in 2004 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen as a public-private partnership to sustain Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee, giving all birth to age five children the opportunity to receive books in the mail at no cost to families. GELF has grown from solely a book-gifting program to an early literacy organization driven by a vision where all Tennessee children have access to the resources, guidance and support they need to become lifelong learners. For more information, visit or, or call toll-free at (877) 99-BOOKS.