100,000 Imagination Library books given in Southeast since 2006

First Lady Sandy Parnell presents the 100,000th Imagination Library book to Alden Scott Talbot and his family. Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO.

A young Juneau family has received the 100,000th book from the Southeast Alaska Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

First Lady Sandy Parnell on Friday presented the “Little Engine that Could” to Alden Scott Talbot, his mother, Marlowe Dunker, and father, Tony Talbot.  Alden was born Oct. 10th and is already enrolled in the Imagination Library through the Association for the Education of Young Children – Southeast Alaska.

“I think  that nothing really says I love you quite the way that cuddling up together and reading a good book does,” Parnell told the crowd gathered at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

The Imagination Library sends free books to children from birth to age 5. It was started by the Country-Western singer in 1996 in her home state of Tennessee.  It is now nationwide as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, and depends primarily on local funds.

Friday’s event was a kick off to raise $15,000, which would provide books to one thousand Southeast Alaska pre-school children for five years.  Program costs are $30 per child per year, or $150 for one child for the entire five years.

More than 2,000 Southeast children are currently enrolled in the program, which started in the region in 2006.

Best Beginnings, a public-private partnership that advocates statewide for pre-school programs, helps Alaska communities start the Imagination Library program.  Best Beginnings is based in Anchorage.

Mayor Merrill Sanford, and Madeline and Dori Germain read a proclamation for Imagination Library Week in Juneau. A cardboard Dolly Parton looks on.

Barbara Brown is Best Beginnings’ Imagination Library project manager.  She brought a life-sized cardboard Dolly Parton to Juneau, which stood on the stage for the event.

“Flat Dolly has been to the glacier and the governor’s mansion, and the legislature.  Flat Dolly is really covering a lot of ground,” she quipped. She said the real Dolly Parton has promised to visit the state sometime to promote the program.

Brown says communities that decide they want to start an Imagination Library will get support from the organization to start and maintain the program.

“And we tell people this is not just a book delivery program.  It is ‘a get the whole community excited about reading to our children’ program,” she said.

Brown said more than 21,000 children in 110 Alaska communities get a free book each month from the Imagination Library.

Nov. 10 to 16 is Dolly Parton Imagination Library Week, as proclaimed by Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford. The mayor and two Imagination Library “graduates,” Madeline and Dori Germain, read the proclamation at the book presentation.


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