Books open up a new world for Obion County’s youth

Books open up a new world for Obion County’s youth

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 9:05 pm

Books open up a new world for Obion County’s youth | Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation, Obion County Reading Railroad

Hallie Edmiston, great-grandmother, Mayme Denton

Special Features Editor
Imagine a home where a child’s proudest possession — sometimes her only possession — is a book.
Dolly Parton could imagine it because her own Smoky Mountain childhood was marked by significant material deprivation.
Teachers and child care workers can imagine it because as they visit the homes of little ones, they too often encounter just such situations, even here in Obion County.
Dolly and her army of volunteers in the Imagination Library program she initiated in 1996 cannot provide for every need in a child’s life, but they know from experience they can open the door to a much wider world than some children would otherwise encounter. And for every child, regardless of income level or circumstance of birth, they can nudge that inborn desire to learn and try to nurture that special bond that develops between an adult who reads aloud and a child who hears the words, sees the pictures and snuggles in the arms that hold the book.
As Tennessee celebrates 2010 Imagination Library Week through Saturday, a variety of programs are planned.
Locally, mayors of each Obion County community were given the opportunity to sign special proclamations recognizing the importance of reading aloud to infants and preschoolers and the value of providing these children their own specially-selected books through Dolly’s Imagination Library program and its area affiliate, Obion County Reading Railroad. These proclamations are now on display at each city hall.
Since 1996, Imagination Library has provided 25 million books to children across the United States. More than 110,000 of them have gone to children in Obion County, which began its own affiliation with the effort in 2002.
In 2004 Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen made his interest in the value of reading to children a matter of practical concern and committed the Volunteer State to partnership with Dolly. The Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation has, since then, delivered more than 10 million books to Tennessee infants and preschoolers at no cost to their families. Currently, nearly 57 percent of Tennessee children in all 95 counties are enrolled in the program, with Obion County one of the first to commit and fund the effort of its own initiative.
The cost of providing 12 high-quality and specially-selected books to a child each year in Tennessee is $24. That cost is evenly split between the governor’s program and a non-profit sponsoring organization in each county.
“Our Vision,” Bredesen says, “is that all Tennessee preschool children will develop a healthy love of reading, have a proficient vocabulary and begin school equally prepared to learn through regular interaction with parents/guardians and books in the home, from birth. As more children continue to ‘graduate’ from the Imagination Library, all Tennesseans will benefit from a higher quality of life, improved health and ultimately realize a workforce with the skills needed to support Tennessee’s future. We hope to serve as a successful model for the establishment of other statewide Imagination Library programs, so that eventually every preschool child in America will benefit from the many advantages of having books in the home.”
Regional and statewide partners of Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation are Dollar General, AT&T, Comcast Foundation, Delta Dental, Nissan, Piedmont Natural Gas and Tennessee Press Association.
Imagination Library themes
Imagination Library books are carefully selected by a panel of education specialists. Fundamental themes they look for in proposed books include publications that promote a love or reading and learning; that foster regard for diversity of people, their roles, culture and environment; and that encourage an appreciation of art and aesthetics. Age-appropriateness is also a major consideration.
Books selected for infants up to a year old stress the importance of vision through bright, big and colorful illustrations; of touch through sturdy board pages; of rhyme and rhythm and playful sound and of minimal text, so the reader and the child can engage in lots of “point and say” activities together. Lullaby themes reinforce attachment and books that are easy to use get high marks.
For the second year, concepts broached in year one are continued and expanded and language is generated through repetition and predictability in the pages of the book. Motor skills are brought into play and books also provide “self-help” activities related to things the children can do that are familiar in their daily lives. Real photo illustrations are frequently used. Colors, letters and numbers are introduced and body awareness is a new theme.
In year three, wordless books encourage the child and the reader to build their own stories. Values and character themes make an appearance and issues such as fear, conflict, love and safety are dealt with. Nursery rhymes, colors, numbers and letters continue to be stressed.
More complex stories are featured in year four. There are heroes and complications and resolution, but there is also play, humor and fun built into a “word”y realization that we are all different and that is something to be celebrated. Poetry makes a major appearance, alongside nursery rhymes that are already familiar.
The final year features an emphasis on school preparation and readiness, with the use of rebus (pictures used for words) as an important component. Science becomes an interesting theme and children are also introduced to folk tales and relationship interaction that includes appreciation to others.
Celebrating Imagination
On Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m., Monica Causey of TN Parent Information Resource Center will be at the Obion County Public Library to present the “Love, Read, Learn” training program for parents, grandparents and day care workers for young children. Each adult who attends will receive a free kit that includes materials and suggestions for practical ways to help young children learn to read.
Obion County Reading Railroad is sponsoring the local program, which is free, as a delayed celebration of Imagination Library Week.
Dollar General is behind the statewide “Love, Read, Learn” initiative. The company’s founder had only a fifth-grade education and his sons have chosen to honor his legacy through the program. Dollar General is also a partner with Dolly’s Imagination Library program.
For more information, visit and click on “What Happens at Love, Read, Learn Training” or e-mail Ms. Causey at
A child may have many or few possessions, but any and every book he owns will be a potential treasure, magnified exponentially by time spent enjoying it in the presence of a loving parent or grandparent. Obion County Reading Railroad, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation are doing their part to provide a wealth of possibilities for the present and the future.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle

Published in The Messenger 9.22.10

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