Dolly Parton-Led Children’s Reading Program Comes to Harrisonburg | Culture

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An international literacy program that provides books to the young children of country star and actress Dolly Parton has made its way to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

The initiative to bring the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to the local community began when Harrisonburg resident Christine Neary went to visit her grandchildren in North Dakota.

Neary said she signed them up for the program during the visit, and when she got home she looked for something similar in Harrisonburg. When she realized there wasn’t a local program like this, she said, she wanted to make a change and took the issue to the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County, ” an independent registered philanthropic institution” that works with charities to improve the community, according to its website.

“[I was] shocked it’s not [in Harrisonburg] because we have such a demographic that would benefit,” Neary said.

Dolly Parton launched Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL), a program that sends books monthly to children ages 0-5, and since March 1, the program has been active in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Currently, the program is in many areas surrounding Harrisonburg, such as Staunton, Waynesboro and Charlottesville, and members of the Community Foundation team said they were thrilled to have the program here.

The Imagination Library website explains that Parton created this program in 1995 to benefit children in East Tennessee, where she grew up. Her father could not read, so she kept the literacy goal in mind when creating the program. The website says she’s also aware that dreams and goals can be inspired by reading, and she wants to help kids achieve those goals.

Amanda Bomfim, program officer at the Community Foundation in Harrisonburg, explained the importance of bringing this program to the Harrisonburg community.

“[It’s] the best thing you can do for children in this age group because the language development and brain development that occurs in the first year of life is astronomical compared to later years,” Bomfim said. . “Building that foundation early on is critical to their academic success as they begin kindergarten.”

Bomfim also explained the current problem that kindergarten teachers face as children come in with different levels of reading knowledge.

“Kindergarten teachers struggle to maintain a group of children who are at the reading level they should be… while trying to catch up with children who are not as advantaged as others or who have not so many books, or books at all, at home,” Bomfim said.

The mission of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is to solve this problem. Bomfim said the foundation’s goal is that as the program grows, community leaders read each age group’s book on a YouTube channel, which she says will help children whose parents or guardians cannot be there to read to their children. The library also offers specific books for each age group.

“[That’s a] very cool thing about the Imagination library,” Bomfim said. “They start with basic concepts like colors and numbers and mature as kids get older. Some of the books for older kids deal with things like relationships that wouldn’t be age-appropriate for older children. youth.

Cynthia Prieto, Community Foundation board member and former high school principal, said the program is “very, very important for addressing literacy everywhere.”

Neary said another great thing about the program is that kids “just qualify by being alive and being under the age of five.”

“Anyone can get it, so no one is left out,” Neary said. “All you have to do is sign up. »

Contact Grace Feuchter at [email protected] To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the Culture Bureau on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.

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