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State's First Lady plans visit to promote Imagination Library

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crissy Haslam, wife of Gov. Bill Haslam, and Governor's Books from Birth Foundation President Theresa Carl will be at Argie Cooper Public Library, 100 South Main St., on Tuesday from noon until 1:15 p.m. to promote the Imagination Library program. The public is invited.

The Imagination Library program, founded by entertainer Dolly Parton, provides a new book each month for children from birth to age 5. The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, according to a news release, began in 2004 as a statewide campaign to systematically implement the Imagination Library program in every county in Tennessee.

Low cost

The program costs $24 per child per year. Each county has a local non-profit organization designated to raise 50 percent of the program's cost, with the state providing the other 50 percent. Argie Cooper Public Library is the local non-profit partner for Bedford County.

All 95 counties in Tennessee have implemented the program, making Tennessee the only state in America with 100 percent participation. Parton personally finances the program in her home county, Sevier County in East Tennessee.

According to the state, more than 15 million books have been delivered since October 2004. There are currently 208,392 Tennessee children receiving the books, just over half of the 407,000 children within the age group. Any child is eligible for the program. A total of 288,096 children have graduated from the program.

Born to read

In some communities, hospital nurses sign families up as soon as a child is born. Pediatricians and family physicians also distribute information about the program.

A committee of childhood education experts selects age-appropriate books for the program. The list includes "The Little Engine That Could" -- a personal favorite of Parton's which has become representative of the program -- "Spot Goes to the Farm," "The Snowy Day," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and "Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!"

Parental help

Crissy Haslam's emphasis as First Lady has been on encouraging parent engagement in education, according to her official website, www.tn.gov/firstlady. She holds a master's degree in education from the University of Tennessee. The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation is based in the First Lady's office.

A native of Houston, she moved with her family to Memphis at age 8 and married Bill Haslam in 1981. They have three adult children and one grandchild.

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