Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five, through funding shared by Dolly Parton and a local community affiliate. After launching in 1995, the program grew quickly and became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort was underway. The Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County saw the need for an early childhood literacy program in 2016 and became the affiliate to bring the program to Smyth County.
Together with partners such as Utility Trailer, this program is able to provide free books to Smyth County children. Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce for the month of August to continue sponsoring the Imagination Library. Through their partnership, more than 600 children across Smyth County will receive books.
Plant Manager of Utility Trailer, Jerry Sheets stated, “Utility Trailer has always sought to make a difference in the communities our employees call home. Having an opportunity to help place books in the hands of Smyth County’s children is a wonderful example of what local companies can do in service to their communities. Utility is truly happy to support the Smyth County Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to spark a child’s interest in reading and the transformative power it can have.”
Understanding the importance of early childhood literacy has significant impacts on the lives of children in Southwest Virginia and their future. The Smyth County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Sarah Gillespie, believes in the lasting effects of the Imagination Library and their cause to continue providing early educational opportunities to Smyth County’s children. “When the Chamber of Commerce looks at Economic Development and Community Development, we see it as a full circle cycle that is so much more than opening businesses. It begins with our children and their early childhood education and experiences. As we all know, many studies show that how well a child reads, often determines their success in life. We want to make sure that our children in Smyth County have a jump start through these books.” The Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County can continue supporting the Imagination Library through these community partnerships and donations.
If other organizations are interested in supporting this program, they can reach out to the Chamber of Commerce of Smyth County for more information. “Every donation makes a difference and allows this program to continue to give back,” says Gillespie.