Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in need of local champions

Children got to preview the books available through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library during the registration event through Reading 2 Succeed last year. (Submitted photo)

Staff Writer

The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's Reading 2 Succeed two-year grant for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library will come to at end in September and organizers are looking for help to continue the initiative.

Reading 2 Succeed Project Manager Adrienne Mercer said Reading 2 Succeed received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education in October of 2016 and it will end on Sept. 30.

Mercer said Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is a program that will send free, age appropriate books in the mail to children starting at birth until their fifth birthday each month.

"Once a child is born, they will start receiving books every month until their fifth birthday," Mercer said. "On their fifth birthday they get a graduation book and graduate out of the program."

Mercer said Dolly Parton's Imagination Library costs about $1,000 each month, or $25 per year per child, but comes at no cost to parents.

"It's a really great way to get books in the hands of children," she said. "Right now we currently have 480 children in Oktibbeha County signed up."

For the children to get their books in October, Mercer said new financial support needs to be found by September.

Common financial supporters include United Ways, businesses, civic groups, local governments, private citizens, educational foundations, Friends of the Library groups, chambers of commerce and school systems.

Once a "local champion" is identified, they are responsible for registering children for the program, entering registration data into the Dollywood Foundation's database, paying the monthly invoice and picking up undeliverable books from the post office.

"It gets children excited about reading, because the book comes to the child in the mail, and who doesn't love getting something in the mail?" Mercer said. "Then they open it and it’s a big, pretty book. We really want to see the program continued in our county."

Local champions can be a single group or individual, or multiple groups and people share the responsibilities.

Anyone interested in contributing can contact Mercer at (662) 615-0033 or at a

Along with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, Reading 2 Succeed promotes literacy in Oktibbeha County's children in various other ways.

"We do Books for Babies, so every mom that has a baby at Oktibbeha County Hospital gets a bag with a book in it, some information, a gum massager and other items," Mercer said. "We do reading programs here for the children at Head Start. We work with the district and the libraries and any event that's literacy related we give away books. We want to promote literacy from birth through 12th grade and on."