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Youngest Ashe citizens benefit from Imagination Ashe

Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library program, which is now available in Ashe County as
Imagination Ashe.

Originally published: Nov. 28, 2012
Last modified: Nov. 28, 2012

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Imagination Ashe is still going strong, providing books for children up to age 5, and area residents can contribute to the program in honor or in memory of someone.

A donation to Imagination Ashe gives Ashe County children, from birth to age 5, a book a month. A tax-deductible gift of $30 provides one book for one child every month for one year; $60 provides one book for one child every month for two years, and so on. Larger gifts fund more books for more children each year.

“We are anxious to continue our Imagination Ashe program and have done so in the past with donations from those who feel strongly about reading in general, reading to children, and early childhood education,” said Karen Moll, who works with the program. “Now, though, we need to expand the scope of our local base support in order to continue. We have partnered with Ashe County teachers and principals who feel strongly about improved reading skills when children enter preschool programs and kindergarten. Various daycares throughout the county also are helping us in getting Dolly books to our younger citizens as we partner with their outreach services.”

Books are selected by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library panel of early childhood learning experts so that each book sent to a child is age appropriate, inspiring and colorful.

Imagination Ashe consists of a group of active board members who have worked over the past six years to enrich the lives of the area's youngest residents. The Imagination Library program began in Ashe County in 2006 with Beth Dixon. She had worked closely with Dolly Parton in East Tennessee prior to returning to the Jefferson area and had personally seen the success of this reading program for young children.

With a kickoff event in July 2006 to register children and raise funds to begin the program, the first books began arriving in January 2007 to registered Ashe County children. The program grew with the help of local individuals and organizations. Currently, there are 625 Ashe County children enrolled in this early childhood reading program.

Often-heard comments from enrolled children's parents show parents and children who look forward to their monthly book delivery and the difference it is making in their lives: “I could never have afforded these books on my own,” and “My children ask if the mailman brought their books today.”

A grandmother stated that “Aaron (2-years-old) was handed down a lot of Dr. Seuss books from his older siblings, but he always would rather have the Dolly books.” 

Another grandmother who visited the booth at Christmas in July said that in addition to enriching the lives of all her grandchildren, she believes that the books have been especially meaningful to another grandchild who is autistic. Hispanic residents have shared that the Dolly books help them improve their English-speaking skills while their children learn at the same time. 

In order to supply books for over 600 children each year, the board applies for grants, participates in festivals and conducts fund drives. Although approximately 10 children “graduate” from the program each month, the board continues to receive more registrations during the same time.

Approximately $23,500 per year is needed to maintain the program and prepare for the expected growth. With over 600 children in the program, Imagination Ashe is still only reaching about one-third of the potential children eligible for enrollment. This is a tall order for a grass-roots organization and they depend on community members to help provide the funds to continue the program each year.

Interested individuals can give a donation in memory or in honor of a loved one to Imagination Ashe. A gift card is provided to those individuals to present to your loved one as part of your gift to them. To receive a donation form, contact Imagination Ashe at (336) 384-4255 or (kandr@skybest.com) by Wednesday, Dec. 5. This early date will enable the group to return gift cards in plenty of time for gift-giving.

Imagination Ashe is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The group's mailing address is Imagination Ashe, PO Box 1745, Jefferson, NC 28640. 

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.