She grew up "dirt poor" in eastern Tennessee, one of 12 siblings on a tobacco farm, but singer Dolly Parton always appreciated the beauty of reading. However, books weren't something the family could afford.
In 1996, after years of success as a singer and actress, she started Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and every child in her home county, no matter the family's income, received a book in the mail each month from birth to age 5. Then Imagination Library spread to every child in Tennessee.
More than 40 million books and 700,000 children later, the program has spread across the country and to Canada and the United Kingdom.
Locally, Pikes Peak Library District and Early Books Early Reading partnered 18 months ago to bring the literacy project to school districts 2 and 11, to children in low-income areas within ZIP codes 80910, 80916 and 80909. Parents must register their children for the program and participate. Now more than 2,200 kids watch their mailboxes every month for new, age-appropriate books and EBER is expanding to 80904 in January.
Every $35 raised for the local program provides one child one free book a month for five years.
On Oct. 21, EBER supporters trekked to Garden of the Gods Club for "Bingo, Books and Brownies." The action was lively as they played Bingo as a parlor game with candy corn and M&Ms and vied for the winners' award of a photo with a Dolly stand-up.
Bingo callers included Dee Fowler from the library district; Jason Wood from Pikes Peak United Way; Kathy Griego, School District 11; Christine Lyle, School District 2; Marty Kemmer-Contreras and Laraine Saldivar-Gillespie, Community Partnership for Child Development; Lisa Schulz, First Visitor; and former city councilwoman Brandy Williams.
The group's well-read board of directors includes Judy Casey, Yvonne Conrad, Martha Frohling, Catherine Jackson, Eileen Kin, Ellen Kratz, Sylvia Lovelace, Nancy Maday, Norene Masimer, Paula Munger and Emily Murawski.
For information: PPLD Foundation/EBER, P.O. Box 1579, 80901, 531-6333.
UPCOMING: At the Barnes and Noble Book Fair, 1565 Briargate Blvd., Dec. 6, the EBER team will be in the store and will gift-wrap books. Shoppers can order online Dec. 6-11. For information: BN.com. Voucher number 11187937.