Dolly Parton Imagination Library promotes literacy in Oregon

Katie Siebenaller

The Oregon Branch Library hosted a press conference and “play date” Sept. 5 for community organizations and area parents and their children to enjoy snacks, crafts, a bounce house and — most importantly — books.
In addition to a special visit from Pete the Cat, Craig Albers, St. Charles Hospital president; Hal Gregory, Oregon City Schools superintendent; Mike Gudgeon, Toledo Refining Company refining manager; Wendy Pestrue, United Way president and CEO, and Debbie Williams, chair of Women’s Initiative of United Way, were in attendance to make a special announcement.
Thanks to Women’s Initiative of United Way and corporate sponsors Toledo Refining Company and Mercy Health, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) is coming to Oregon.
The DPIL was created by singer-songwriter Dolly Parton in 1995 as a tribute to her father, who was illiterate. As a part of the DPIL, children from birth to five years old receive a free book in the mail every month, regardless of family income. Book costs are covered by each participating community’s “Local Champions.” Businesses, non-profit organizations, local school districts and/or individuals can become “Local Champions” by signing up on the DPIL website.
The program began in Parton’s home county in Tennessee, and has since expanded to participating communities in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Republic of Ireland. Since its inception more than 125 million books have been mailed, including 165,000 in Toledo since the Women’s Initiative of United Way brought the DPIL to the community in 2015. Collaboration with the Oregon community was the next step.
“As the person in charge of the educational landscape here in Oregon, it’s something that we’ve talked about for quite a long time,” said superintendent Gregory, “But it takes money to get things done, and we now have the money to get something done.”
“There is an epidemic with preschool and young children not getting those skills needed to enter school prepared,” Gregory continued. “It’s not just here in Oregon, it’s in the surrounding area and all across America — and anything we can do to provide the opportunity for parents to interact with their kids, to read to their kids every single day, is vital to the success of our community. Without programs like this, without support from companies like this, our education system cannot be successful.”
“As Hal said, we do have a literacy issue in our community,” Debbie Williams, of Women’s Initiative of United Way, added. “About less than 20 percent of children in kindergarten are ready to learn. They don’t know their alphabet, they’re not familiar with numbers, and many of them don’t know how to use a book. So the best way to improve literacy and school readiness is to provide access to books.”
Mike Gudgeon agreed. “I think it’s very, very important to kids’ education — for them to be successful — to get books in their hands as early as possible, and that is the goal of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library,” he said.
Mercy Health plans to promote the DPIL from the moment a child is born.
“When a child is born in our O.B. department, we’ll offer the opportunity to parents to be able to sign up for the program, and that way our children will be able to receive a book every month, up until the age of kindergarten. And that way they will be well-prepared for their schooling.” Craig Albers said.
Launching the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Oregon has been a group effort — something the United Way’s Wendy Pestrue embraces. “At United Way, we see our mission to be collaborative with others, and these are great folks to be working with, and of course we want to be there for the families in our community.”
The DPIL has teamed up with American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. (APH) and Penguin Group, USA in 2011 to make free downloadable children’s audio books available. Additionally, APH now supplies many titles in Braille. Both audio books and books in Braille are free for eligible families, and can be purchased at a low cost by others, ensuring that young blind and visually impaired children can benefit from the DPIL.
“There are three things that are really, really important that we know from a lot of research that’s been done from over the years,” Pestrue said. “First of all, a child is much better when they have a lot of interaction with people. As we know, everyone’s life is better when they are not isolated and spend time with others. The second thing is to develop life core skills, and reading is definitely one of those. And then the third thing is so important to a child: to take time to reduce the stress in their lives. So reading a book with a child — whether it’s a family member or a friend — makes a huge impact, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library can make this difference in a child’s life.”
For more information about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library or how to register a child or sponsor a local branch, visit Women’s Initiative of United Way also offers help to parents to register children in the DPIL by calling 211 or visiting the United Way website,


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association