LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Lynchburg parents can now sign their children up here to receive a free book every month through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
“I signed up online, and about 6 to 8 weeks later I got my first book,” said Mary Omotoye.
She first signed her two boys up when she lived in Cleveland, OH.
“We loved it,” she said. “My children were so excited to get the books. I was so excited to get the books. There were so many titles that I had never heard of. They were high-quality books. We got hardcovers, we got soft covers, we got some board books.”
Now in Lynchburg, she and her husband started a nonprofit, the Aspire Foundation, to partner with Imagination Library and bring the program to the Hill City.
“I love books,” said Lynchburg parent Brianna Merrill, who attended the Lynchburg chapter launch event on Tuesday at the Lynchburg Public Library. “I love being able to see my kids read books…my two and a half year old reads a lot.”
“I think it teaches them to love learning, to love reading,” said Jennifer Musana, a board member of the Aspire Foundation and a former teacher. “Reading is so important later in life, so I think that’s a big thing.”
Resources are limited. For now, the program is only open to children in the 24501 and 24504 zip codes. Omotoye says she chose areas where she sees the most need.
“There are statistics to show that, especially in low-income areas, the ratio of children to books is 300 to 1,” she said.
She says the goal is to eventually expand throughout the city.
“We hope to be able to give every child in Lynchburg a Dolly Parton Imagination Library book, every month until they’re five years old.”
That adds up to a personal library of as many as 60 books per child.
The purpose is to ensure all children have access to books at an early age, which is crucial for development.
Aspire Foundation raised enough funds to support 700 children’s membership over the next two years. As of the launch event on Tuesday, about 600 spots remain.
The program, launched by Dolly Parton in 1995, mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, regardless of the family’s income. Since its inception, the program has sent millions of books to children around the world.
Lynchburg parents who would like to enroll their child may do so by visiting imaginationlibrary.com/check-availability.