Read-A-Thon Fundraiser happening for Boyle Imagination Library

Published 2:40 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

Local champions of early childhood education are seeking community support to promote literacy for Boyle County’s youngest residents through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Heart of KY Kids is an Early Childhood Regional Collaborative that aims to ensure the best early care and education so every child in Boyle and Mercer counties is ready for kindergarten. In addition to sharing information about local kid-friendly activities and organizations, childcare provider lists, and eligibility details for Head Start and preschool programs, Heart of KY Kids coordinates the Boyle County chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income. The program is administered by local chapters, organized by county, in states across the country.

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Heart of KY Kids is hosting the Read-A-Thon, a new fundraising initiative, to support the Boyle County Imagination Library.

The premise is simple. During the month of March, participants will read every day and invite their friends and family to sponsor their reading goals using a simple calendar-style fundraiser. Supporters can “claim” a date on the calendar and donate the corresponding dollar value. So, if someone claims March 10, they agree to donate $10, and so on.

“When The Dollywood Foundation made a big push to expand Imagination Library participation rates in Kentucky in 2022, Boyle County was one of the first counties to assemble the necessary local infrastructure to launch the program,” said Colleen Hall, director of the Boyle County Public Library and member of the Boyle County Imagination Library steering committee. Local chapters recruit families to participate in the Imagination Library, coordinate their registration, and contribute financially to the program.

Amber Shartzer with the Parks & Recreation Department oversees family registrations for Boyle County and says that more than 950 children currently receive books each month through the Imagination Library. Since organizing, the Boyle County chapter has served 1,391 kids, some of whom have since aged out of the program or moved.

“When we organized our chapter, the Dollywood Foundation gave us some target enrollment numbers based on the total number of eligible kids in the county. Within a year, we had already reached our Year 3 target for total participating children. We’re really proud of that achievement, but we hope to keep growing the number of kids receiving books,” she said.

In order to keep the books flowing to local families, Heart of KY Kids has a significant annual fundraising goal, said Kate Snyder, owner of Plaid Elephant Books and member of the Boyle County Imagination Library steering committee.

“There is a common misconception that the Imagination Library is totally free – funded entirely by the Dollywood Foundation,” Snyder said.

Although the Dollywood Foundation pays for the majority of costs to select and send the books, local chapters are responsible for raising approximately $25 per child per year. There is no cost to participating families.

For its first two years of operations, the Boyle County Imagination Library has been primarily funded by the KY Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, along with donations by local businesses and individuals. In planning for the future, Snyder says that Heart of KY Kids recognized the need to cast a wider net.

“We know that this program is important to our community,” she said, “and we’re confident that folks will step forward to help keep it strong.”

Snyder says that the Read-A-Thon is grassroots fundraising at its best. “By using the calendar fundraising model, the most any one person is asked to contribute is $31. It divides a larger goal into manageable, bite-sized chunks.”

“Our young sons have benefitted from Imagination Library books since they were babies, and we are excited to participate in this reading fundraiser as a family,” said Mary Beth Murray, director of Development and Communications for Grace Café, and member of the steering committee.  “We want to give back and support this program to keep it thriving for Boyle County kids.”

More details about the fundraiser can be found on the Heart of KY Kids website – Individuals wishing to join the Read-A-Thon can email to request a digital calendar.

Printed calendars are also available at Plaid Elephant Books and the Boyle County Public Library.