Program provides free books to children each month to encourage early childhood literacy

Young children in Columbia County could soon benefit from a reading program started by Dolly Parton more than 20 years ago.

United Way of Columbia County is partnering with other nonprofit organizations to offer Parton's Imagination Library program to kids in Columbia County.

IMAGE COURTESY DOLLY PARTON IMAGINATION LIBRARY - Renowned country singer Dolly Parton reads to children to promote her Imagination Library program. The program, which relies on donations to provide new books to young children, will soon be available in Columbia County.The program relies on monetary donations from sponsors to provide direct shipments of quality, new, age-appropriate books to children up to five years old, directly to the child's home.

"Begun in 1995 as a charity in Sever County, Tennessee, Dolly Parton began the project so that every preschool child in her home county could have books in the home," a news release about the program states. "The program currently distributes over 1 million high quality books to children around the world."

The program is open to all children at no cost.

Donors in Columbia County can pledge anywhere from $250 a year to provide books to 10 children for a year, to $5,000 for 200 children, or a higher amount if a donor chooses.

"Our goal in 2018 is to fund the program for 1,180 children," the United Way press release states. "For that we will need $29,500. We have cash commitments from local organizations and a major grant from the James and Shirley Rippey Family Foundation, but you or your business can make a difference in our community with your donation. Any amount will make a difference."

The program is credited with increasing literacy and success among participating children.

"We know from history and research that children who have access to books do better and are better prepared for when they start school," says Kathye Beck of United Way of Columbia County.

Parton says her father was illiterate, but before his death he lauded her for creating the program, calling it the most important thing she had ever done.

"Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission," Parton states of the program. "In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county, but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children."

To contribute to the program, tax deductible donations can be made to Imagination Library, c/o United Way of Columbia County, PO Box 538, Rainier, OR 97048. You can also visit the United Way of Columbia County or call 503-556-3614.

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