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Imagination Library brings books and excitement to Eastern Kentucky counties

Fourteen Eastern Kentucky counties will now be able to take advantage of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which encourages early literacy while assisting children with the creation of their own personal library.

Through an exciting partnership with the Dollywood Foundation, Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (CCLD) and Forward in the Fifth (FIF), Eastern Kentucky counties will be able to benefit from the literacy program.

Levi Stamper reads with Lee County School District Superintendent Dr. Jim Evans during an Imagination Library event in November.

Levi Stamper reads with Lee County School District Superintendent Dr. Jim Evans during an Imagination Library event in November.

Participating counties in the pilot program include Bell, Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Lee, Magoffin, Owsley, Pike and Wolfe. Leslie, Letcher and Perry counties, which previously created Imagination Library Affiliate programs, will also be included in the pilot program.

Pre-school aged children (birth to age 5) can register for the free resource and will receive one book a-month through the mail until their fifth birthday.

To-date, nearly 2,000 children have been enrolled in the program since October 2015. Counties already participating in the program launch include Bell, Floyd, Lee, Pike, Wolfe with many additional events across the region scheduled in the next six weeks.  Enthusiasm has been contagious from the parents who have signed their children up and volunteers who have helped make the events successful.

“It brings our community together,” said Wendy Pellfrey, Wolfe County’s Community Education Director. “It shows that reading and education is important to the community. If you can read, you can do anything. The love of books is a wonderful thing.”

Pellfrey said she was really excited that Wolfe County is now a part of the program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our kids.” Pellfrey said.

Children had the opportunity to receive their first book, The Little Engine That Could, upon registration.

Jonathan Honakerm, of Pike County, registered his one-and-a-half year old son Jayson Issiah and six-week old daughter Kylee Mae.

“Our children love books,” Honaker said. “Everyone should be able to enjoy them through a program like this. We are grateful for the opportunity.”

Imagination Library was launched in 1996 by country music star Dolly Parton and the Dollywood Foundation in Tennessee. The program’s mission is to focus on promoting the love of reading and learning in children. It currently has more than 900,000 children registered world-wide.

“Instilling the love of books and reading early in a child’s life is so critical,” said Jim Tackett, KVEC ARI (Appalachian Renaissance Initiative) Readiness Lead and Forward in the Fifth Executive Director. “Books can take us anywhere and help us become anything we want.  What is more important in a child’s life than instilling that attitude?”

“By bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library into eastern Kentucky, we value the impact this quality program can have for generations,” Tackett said. “This program recognizes family is the first and primary teacher of the child. The books provide an avenue for critical learning and bonding to take place during the early years.”

The pilot program will include a 14-county service area of Eastern Kentucky. The program will work with additional partners including schools, libraries, childcare, head start, pre-school programs, FRYSC and health departments to identify and enroll all eligible children. The goal in the near future is to expand the literacy program statewide as resources are secured beyond the pilot area.

“We welcome businesses, faith-based and community partners locally and across the region to join us in this important venture,” Tackett said. “The impact will be priceless.”

There will be additional Imagination Library events throughout Eastern Kentucky through the end of April.

April 15 – Valley Elementary, Pike County: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

April 19 – Johnson County Public Library: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

April 19 – Johnson Central High School, Johnson County: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

April 26 – LBJ Elementary, Breathitt County: 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

April 29 – Johns Creek Elementary, Pike County: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information on Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, visit For more information on future Imagination Library events in Eastern Kentucky visit Forward in the Fifth’s website  or The Holler (

Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and an affiliate of The Center for Rural Development, was formed in 1986 by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, (KY-05), and other leaders to work to reverse low education attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District. The organization strives to engage community stakeholders to advance the value of education; serves as advocates to advance all education systems to improve educational attainment; and supports schools and stakeholders to secure needed resources to improve the quality of education within their local communities.


Mia Blackburn

Nearly 150 people packed into Bevins Elementary’s cafeteria in late March for Pike County’s launching of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. Mia Blackburn couldn’t wait to get her personal copy of The Little Engine That Could. Children had the opportunity to receive their first book upon registration.



Noah Burton, 3 weeks old, was the youngest child that was signed up for the Imagination Library program at the Wolfe County Event. Noah will receive one book a month until he turns five years old as a result of the regional partnership formed by The Dollywood Foundation, Kentucky Valley Educational cooperative (KVEC), Collaborative Center for Literacy Development (CCLD) and Forward in the Fifth (FIF).

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