Dolly Parton's Book Program Goes Statewide in TN


Entertainer Dolly Parton has succeeded where many legislators and politicos have not. Tennessee has finally granted sufficient funding for a state-wide program entitled the "Imagination Library", which will guarantee that every child in the state will receive one book a month from birth to age five, which has proven to be the most critical time for children to develop an interest in books.

Here's the story from the Tennessean.


According to the story, this program sounds VERY affordable:"The program costs $27 per year per child. There are about 375,000 children under 5 in Tennessee, and all are eligible."$27/yr for a book a month until the kid is five. Sounds like a great deal to me. If the parent reads the books aloud to the kids each month, I think this program can make a difference.My only worry is that people will get hung up over the selection process. I hope folks will just accept that not every book will be their cup of tea and not litigate the program to death.There's also the issue that parents could get many books of their own choice for free at their public library. But still, it sounds like Dolly is doing good work.

I think I would disagree with you here. There are numerous give-away programs--food, education, medical care--why not books which may spark just a few children to seek out more books. In rural TN that may be difficult, and perhaps Dolly knows more about that than I do.

This spring we donated $500 to a school that was purchasing a book illustrated by James Ransome for each child in the school (he was a guest speaker). It was delightful to meet and hear him, but it was an even bigger thrill to see the children walking back to their classroom carrying (and showing us) their very own book. Many came from homes where there were no books, newspapers, or magazines in the house, and never will be unless the kids lead the parents.

I hope this book in the homes idea isn't a program that will expand and take money from library programs, however, because I do believe children need both--to own books and to visit libraries.

Dolly is free to buy as many books for as many people as she likes, but there is a difference between the value of a library and the value of simply mailing random books to kids.

You're right, there is more to us then books. There is a 'library experience' that is important to try and get across to the public. One of the best ways to do that is to get children into the library, getting them into books, and showing them what else we offer as they grow older.

To simply ship them books ignores all of that. It is, in essence, a dead end program.

The government, federal, state, and local, invests in libraries because of the whole experience and because it requires public participation to work. A handout program that doesn't motivate and doesn't really educate (please remember that bad parents who don't take their kids to libraries aren't likely to read to them either, free books or no) is a waste of time, energy, and resources better spent on a public library.

"books are our business." hmmm. and all this time i thought books were bookstores' business, and access to information, literacy programs, and community service were our business. much like what this program wants to accomplish. and last time i checked, libraries get government funding as well. why so much resentment toward little kids in a largely poor, rural state getting additional chances to read?

Let the little brats pull themselves up by their bootstraps!

It really was well-argued on both sides. I'll see if I can find a summary of it.

We should be complaining because books are our business and shouldn't be co-opted by feel good programs with rather large holes in them, some already mentioned here.

As for children who aren't getting access to the libraries, its not for government to be getting involved. Carnegie put it best when he said that libraries help those that help themselves. I'd rather see $2 million spent on newspaper and tv ads saying exactly that then on this flawed program.

There was a note about it in an issue of American Libraries. Some things never go out of date. Paternalistic? How so? It seems like an apt mission statement for all kind sof libraries. And how awesome is it to have a motto that acknowledges financial responsibility in what is mostly a government funded enterprise?

Despite the title, this program is not about libraries; it's an extension of a book-giving program Dolly started in Sevier County long ago, which parents in neighboring counties have long been jealous of. "Everybody" is getting access to information, in that all kids statewide will be receiving books. Should librarians really be complaining when additional books are making it into the homes of children, especially those who aren't getting transportation/parental interest to get them to the libraries?

"The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost�. Never let it be said ALA does everything wrong.

You don't know how close ALA came to dumping the motto this year. There was a resolution at midwinter to get rid of it, saying that it was outdated and paternalistic (the resolution was much more artfully stated, and really made sense). I was inclined to vote for getting rid of it, but there was some very passionate, thoughtful debate, and many of us who were going to vote for getting rid of it changed our minds.

No matter how 'feel good' something like this sounds you should fight it with everything you've got.

The sole purpose of a library is to invest money collectively so that *everybody* can have access to information. Pet projects like this undermine the entire concept and is in no way an effective use of funds.

"The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost�. Never let it be said ALA does everything wrong.

Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich pushed this program through as a statewide initiative, much to the ire of many in the library community. Why? a) It will cost the state $26 million dollars. b) This is a state where some school libraries are closing their doors, seeking volunteer staff, or who can't afford books. c) As Daniel hinted at--the selection process will be a stickler. Will the books come in different languages, be sensitive to cultural issues, etc.? d) The program has a deal with only one publisher: Penguin. e) Illinois has seen a huge number of businesses leave the state in the past year--this is a huge contract that is going out of state. f) if a family has a bunch of kids under the age of 5, do all the kids get the same book?

I think the idea is nice, in theory, but I'm not sure how effective it will be. I'm hoping that it works on some level, but I'm not sure that blanketing the state with books will make people understand the importance of reading to their children. My guess is that libraries, Goodwill stores and dumpsters will see a substantial rise in book donations in areas where the program is available. I still think Dolly is just swell, though.

The thing about your example is that its a one shot deal. I've heard of state programs and even local library ones where some form of gift basket is sent to newborns. That's okay, not unreasonable. A book a month for 5 years? Unreasonable and sends the wrong message.