GREENFIELD — In 1995, country music legend Dolly Parton launched a new effort to benefit children in her hometown in eastern Tennessee and foster their love for reading. She did this through starting an effort to put a free book each month in the hands of children birth to age 5.
That effort will now continue growing far beyond the Smoky Mountains and into Adair County, as the Greater Greenfield Foundation is partnering with area libraries to start a Dolly Parton Imagination Library chapter here.
“It’s really incredible what Dolly has done. She started it just in Tennessee and it’s just grown. It’s worldwide now,” said Jennifer Garside, a representative of the Greater Greenfield Foundation.
Garside said she learned about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library from a segment for it that played on the Hallmark Channel.
“My husband and I, we’re just Christmas fanatics. We watch [all of the Hallmark movies]. We start recording them in the end of October but never watch them before Halloween, but last year during the pandemic, we started watching them,” Garside said. “In 2019, they had a little feature on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and I thought that was really interesting.”
Upon more investigation, Garside realized there wasn’t a chapter nearby Adair County. She passed the idea along to Greenfield Public Library staff and the Greater Greenfield Foundation board, and the process began. Because of the pandemic and other factors, final approval wasn’t granted until this October.
Registration forms are being compiled and they will be disbursed around the county at schools, libraries, day cares and preschools.
“I think our biggest barrier will be the little newborns, because they can start taking advantage of it as soon as they’re born through when they’re a 5-year-old. That’s a lot of books if you start them young,” Garside said. “They’re good, quality authors. They’re not cheap, throw away books. They’re age appropriate. They change books each year so if you have siblings coming up families don’t get three of the same.”
Since it began, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has grown to giving 1.8 million books to children birth to 5 years each month.
Garside said that if families aren’t given the opportunity to sign up for these benefits, registration forms for the imagination library will be posted on area libraries’ Facebook pages.
“Dolly’s foundation fronts a lot of the expense for this, then the Greater Greenfield Foundation will come in for about 25% of the cost per year,” Garside said. “Any kids in Adair County are eligible. Our push is to get a bunch of registrations now and then kick it off at the start of the year, but we can add registrations at any time.”