Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library comes to Cullman

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Cullman County Public Library Director Sharon Townsend with her grandson Carter at Friday’s press conference (Ashlyn Grey for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Dolly Parton Imagination Library has officially launched in Cullman. On Friday morning, the Cullman County Public Library hosted a news conference to discuss the partnership between the Friends of the Public Library, Cullman Electric Cooperative and Cullman County Public Library in bringing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to the children of Cullman County. 

The Imagination Library operates by allowing children ages 0-5 to be registered online or through paper application to receive a free, new book in the mail every month. This program is available to anyone who has a Cullman County mailing address. Registration online can be found at https://ccimaginationlibrary.com/signup/. Paper applications are available at all Cullman County Public Library branches, the Link and Cullman Electric Cooperative. 

Brian Lacy with Cullman Electric Cooperative shared with The Tribune, “Touchstone partnered with Dolly Parton Imagination Library to make their program and all of their materials available. And so, when we (Cullman Electric Cooperative) found out about that in the fall, we talked and wondered who we could reach out to here in Cullman to do that. So that is when we had the idea to reach out to the Friends of the Public Library group and said, ‘Hey, if you guys want to start this up, we will partner with you both financially and sort of behind the scenes. We will help you with marketing and promotion, help do social media and the website’ and they agreed. So, we have spent the last 7-8 months doing legwork behind the scenes so we could get to a point and there are now five or six other businesses that are corporate sponsors.”  

He also shared, “Once a child signs up, every single month from the time that they are born to when they turn 5 years old, they will get a book in the mail every month, and it is completely free to the family. The cost is about $25 per year, so it is like $2.10 a month, so that’s where we have been working on getting corporate donations. We put up some money and we were able to get a grant to cover about half the cost to get started and then we have had four or five other businesses agree to do it. Fundraising going forward is going to continue to be a big thing to keep it going. But that is the idea is that is gets books into the hands of kids preschool age and helps them start to grow that appreciation of reading and literature.” 

Cullman County Public Library Director Sharon Townsend brought her young grandson Carter to the event with her, as he will be participating in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program as well. Townsend shared, “This is a big deal for our community. They will have a whole library of books by the time they start school, so that is exciting. We expose our kids to sports and dance lessons and things but sometimes we kind of forget about the reading part. So, this will give parents a better opportunity to have books in their home.” 

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was launched in 1995 in Dolly’s hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee, through the Dollywood Foundation. It was begun with the intention of addressing low graduation rates and illiteracy issues, and the program has since grown to reach over 2,000 local communities worldwide, giving over 150 million books to children.  

Tanya Alcorn, President of the Friends of the Public Libraries of Cullman County said excitedly, “If you have a Cullman address and the child is from 0-5, they get a book. We have incredible sponsors who have stepped up and said, ‘We want to be a part of this.’ So, we are grateful. Cullman is super, super lucky.” 

The wonderful sponsors who have teamed up with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library so far are Cullman Electric Cooperative, Cullman County Schools, R.E. Garrison Trucking, McCaw Hydraulics, Apel Steel and People’s Bank of Alabama. While goals to cover the cost of the program for the first two years have been successful, donations from corporations, community groups and individuals will continue to make the program possible and by signing up as a sponsor, businesses and community groups alike can ensure literature continues being put into the hands of Cullman County’s youngest minds.  

At the end of the news conference, representatives sent from sponsors assisted in passing out hardback copies of “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper, also known as Arnold Munk. The book is a staple for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and the first book that children receive when they enter the program. 

Cullman County Superintendent Shane Barnett shared with The Tribune on Cullman County School’s sponsorship, “We are glad to be a part of it. It is something we have kind of been working on, too. Something for all of our infants, and we were glad to hear that they were doing this and hope they continue.”  

To become a sponsor of the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library within your community, businesses may contact Tanya Allcorn at friendsofcullmanlibraries@gmail.com or Oakleigh Calahan at oakleighc@cullmanec.com. Individual sponsorships can also be made online at https://ccimaginationlibrary.com/give/

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