15 May 2022

Dolly Parton improves literacy outcomes for Snowy Valleys children

| Edwina Mason
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Dolly Parton reading to a crowd of parents and children

Over 160 million books have been delivered to nearly two million children across the US, UK, Canada, Ireland and Australia in the 26-year lifespan of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Photo: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

What do Dolly Parton and the children of the Snowy Valleys have in common?

The US country singer’s name is on the lips of parents in the local government area with every local newborn child eligible to receive a free age-appropriate, culturally sensitive book every month until they turn five.

Devised in 1996, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program grants children access to their own library of literary resources from an early age to help develop the emerging literacy skills essential to reading and writing.

More than 160 million books have been delivered to nearly two million children across the US, UK, Canada, Ireland and Australia over the program’s 26-year lifespan.

The Australian catalogue of books is tailored for local audiences, with Aussie content and a focus on First Nation’s authors and illustrators.

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The Imagination Library kicked off in the Snowy Valleys in January. It included Tumut, Batlow, Tumbarumba and Adelong and localities like Brindabella, Brungle, Cabramurra, Gilmore, Grahamstown, Greg Greg, Gocup, Jingellic, Khancoban, Killimicat, Little River, Maragle, Rosewood, Talbingo, Tooma, Wondalga and Yarrangobilly.

Early childhood census data shows children in the Snowy Valleys are below the state average regarding literacy and communication skill levels.

Snowy Valleys councillor Julia Ham, who has a special interest in early childhood education, said she was delighted to see the program rolled out to the community.

“This is a game changer for the young children in Snowy Valleys,” she said.

“It provides a practical approach to better equip our young children and delivers resources to connect parents and children through a love of reading.

“To have access to new books each month is starting a world of literary imagination. Just brilliant.”

Woman reading to two children

Local mum Bonnie Dick with her children Maggie and baby Charlie at the Tumut Library. Charlie is enrolled in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Photo: Snowy Valleys Council.

Charity organisation United Way Australia will work with council and administer the Snowy Valleys project.

United Way Australia’s CEO, Clayton Noble said they were very excited to be partnering with the Snowy Valleys Council on the innovative program.

“The commitment to ensuring every child born in the region is ‘school ready’ is to be applauded,” he said.

“Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will be a big boost to achieving this goal.”

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Cr Ham said the project deserved widespread support from across the community.

“It will deliver positive outcomes at individual, family and community levels,” she said.

“I encourage families with newborns to sign their children up to the program.”

Anyone in The Snowy Valleys seeking more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is encouraged to chat with their local library staff or contact the council’s library coordinator at (02) 6941 2541 or [email protected]

New parents can also speak with their local family health nurse.

People living in other local government areas in Southern NSW wishing to become involved should visit the United Way website.

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What a wonderful thing to do, and so good to encourage children with actual books not electronic books or games.

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