The Ole Seagull owes an apology to all those children born in Stone and Taney County since 2000 for failing to grasp the significance of a wonderful program called “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.” It is a program started by Dolly Parton in 2000 that gives a free book to every child in Stone and Taney County, every month between birth and age five. That’s right, up to 60 books free, sent one per month to every eligible child regardless of income. With a little parental or other adult effort it could become the most important gift your child or grandchild ever received.
Those who know the Ole Seagull realize that there are a lot of brighter intellectual bulbs than he shining in the world and he would agree with them. What they will be hard pressed to find however, is someone who appreciates reading and, even in today’s technological world, what it can mean to ones image, confidence, chance of success and quality of life more than him.
And that’s what’s sad, that, although he had heard about the “Imagination Library Program” he was always doing something else and failed to take the time to connect the dots and to appreciate the scope and potential of the program. That changed during a recent interview with John Richardson, Director of Sales & Marketing for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Branson about the exciting changes taking place in the Dixie Stampede show in 2010.
As the interview ended the Ole Seagull asked if there was anything else he wanted to add. When he said the words, “Every child in Stone and Taney County, between birth and age five, is eligible to get a book sent to them for FREE every month as part of the ‘Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program’” and the Ole Seagull realized it’s potential impact on the children of Stone and Taney County it literally blew his feathers off.
Richardson explained that the program has been in place since the year 2000. He said, “Dolly’s intention is to encourage children to use their imaginations through reading, build up pride and ownership in reading by letting every kid own their own good quality books with great stories, and to develop a love of reading.” Every eligible child in the household receives their own book so brothers and sisters do not have to share books with their siblings.
“All they need to do is fill out an enrollment form, there is no cost and they will receive a free book every month from birth until age 5,” he continued. “Every child gets those books without regard to family income, could receive up to 60 books and there is no income requirement or threshold. That is Dolly’s gift back to the community.”
He said, “In Stone and Taney County the program is funded by Dixie Stampede and services about 2600 kids on a rotating basis. New kids enter the program as other kids reach the age of 5 and graduate from the program or move from Stone and Taney County.” He called it a “a public endearment” and a program that Dolly is actively involved in and supports.
Richardson said, “Dolly picked the first book and the last book each child would received. The first book is “The Little Engine That Could” and the last is called “Kindergarten Here I Come.” When he gave her rationale for the selection of the first book “The Little Engine That Could,” it almost brought a tear to an Ole Seagull’s eye. He said that Dolly picked it because it’s her favorite book because she thinks it’s indicative of her career.
As he heard those words the Ole Seagull remembered himself as a little boy sitting in on the floor of the library in Roger Sherman School listening to the librarian read about the little engine that, in the face of almost insurmountable odds accepted the challenge and just kept on trying until it succeeded. Many times during his life over the last 60 plus years since he first heard and read the story, the simple message of “Little Engine That Could” and its “I think I can” attitude has served him well.
Dolly has said, “If we can help turn the dreams of a child into the promise of a bright future, then one of my biggest dreams will come true.” She’s done her part, all we have to do is deliver the gift to our children and grandchildren. For additional information or enrollment forms either visit Dixie Stampede or call (417) 337-9400.