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News Community Give the gift of literacy this Christmas

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is responsible for providing a book a month to more than 600,000 children a year since its inception in 1996.Nearly 50 percent of the children in Macon County are not prepared for kindergarten. They lack the capability to recognize letters and sounds, are unable to tell you the color of their shirt or what shape is on the table, and are ill-prepared and lack basic vocabulary. With children entering the school system already behind, by third grade they are far behind the state mandate to have every child reading on or above grade level. Those children will have to spend a good portion of their educational career playing catch-up, and some may never reach that point.

One important tool that has been statistically proven to enhance a child's learning and increase proficiency is early literacy. Children who learn to read at an early age are proven to do better after entering school. Early literacy is not reading and writing, but instead, what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy includes vocabulary, print motivation, print awareness, narrative skills, phonological awareness, and letter knowledge. Young children must develop early literacy skills in order to be successful with formal reading and writing in school.

This holiday season, consider giving the gift of literacy to a child in Macon County. Read2Me, a community group focused on promoting early literacy in the community is teaming up with The Literacy Council of Highlands to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Macon County.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides one book per month free of charge for all children, birth to five, who register.

“This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in your community,” says Parton in the program's information letter. “When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

Macon County News reporter Brittney Parker hands a young girl a “Where’s Waldo?” book from a recent event sponsored by Read2Me, The Western Mountain Reading Council, and the Fontana Regional Library.After a parent or guardian has registered a child with Imagination Library through the Highlands Literacy Council or Read2Me, the child will receive once a month in the mail a package with a free, age-appropriate book selected from the Imagination Library’s set of 60 children’s classic picture books.

With 624,840 children registered for the program in the United States alone, there is evidence of the impact that the program has had on children across the country.

The Literacy Council of Highlands has garnered generous supporters offering to match community donations, dollar for dollar, up to $7,500. A condition of the grant is that the matching funds must be collected by the end of December.

Based on kindergarten enrollment numbers, around 1,900 children birth to five in Macon County are eligible for the program. One hundred and fifty (150) donations of $30 will ensure that every child receives one book per month, from birth to age five. A $30 donation provides a scholarship for one child, for a full year, and with the grant, instantly becomes a scholarship supporting two local children for a year. A contribution of $30, or whatever amount, would be a great Christmas present to a local child. All of the money donated goes directly to the Dolly Parton effort; there are no local administrative costs.

This Christmas, instead of doing secret Santa in the office and exchanging gifts you don't want and will never use, consider sponsoring a child and giving them the gift of literacy.

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