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Imagination Library of Knox County to present its one millionth book

Governor and Mrs. Haslam to make presentation at the UT-Kentucky game on March 6

KNOXVILLE -- They thought they could, they thought they could. And they did. The first book that each child receives when enrolling in the Imagination Library is The Little Engine that Could. On March 6, it will also be the one millionth book received by a child in Knox County since the program began here in 2005. Governor and Mrs. Haslam will be at Thompson Boling Arena on Sunday, March 6 to present the milestone book to a four year old girl from Sam E. Hill Preschool during the UT-Kentucky game. She will receive a special copy of Dolly Parton's favorite children's book, signed by Dolly herself. Also during the presentation, a five year old boy from the same preschool will be honored as a recent graduate of the program by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. He will receive I Am a Rainbow, signed and written by Dolly.

In 1996, Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library in Sevier County to help the children of her hometown. By mailing out a free book every month to children under the age of five, she sent a message that reading to young children is vitally important. Dolly knew that receiving books from birth helps prepare kids for school, builds their vocabulary, and encourages families to spend quality time together. Working with the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation to provide a one-to-one match in funding, the program is now in every county across Tennessee.

In Knox County, Imagination Library is administered by the Knox County Public Library and supported by a volunteer board who raises money for the books and mailing. It has been recognized as a nationwide leader in the program. Together with other community leaders, they have registered more children per capita than any other urban community in the country. First Lady Crissy Haslam has been involved from the beginning.

"We are pleased to have such strong community support for this important program," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. "Learning begins from birth, and this program helps young families focus on reading so that their children will be ready for Kindergarten. We could not do it without our community partners."

Research shows the children who were registered in Imagination Library are better prepared for Kindergarten. Impact studies conducted by the Knox County School system and the State of Tennessee show a high correlation between participation in the program and proficiency of pre-literacy skills as well as an overall excitement about reading. Experts recommend that children be read to for 20 minutes every day.

In Knox County, 73% of its eligible population is currently enrolled in the program. Each year, the program must raise over $210,000 to provide books and mailing from individuals, corporations and foundations. That money is matched by the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation to provide nearly 18,000 new books each month. To support the local program, donations are accepted through To learn more, please call (865) 215-8767.

Published March 4, 2011

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