Dolly Parton boosts family reading

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The number of parents who read to their children has seen a sharp increase since they joined the Dolly Parton free book gifting programme, according to a new survey.

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With Dolly Parton's UK Imagination Library, pre-school children receive a book, delivered directly to their home each month, from birth until the age of five.

The scheme currently runs in Rotherham, Nottingham, Luton and West London.

Before they joined, 50 per cent of parents in the programme said they read to their children at least four times a week. Since being in the programme, this figure has risen to 80 per cent.

Receiving the free books has also impacted on the amount of television that pre-school children watch, with parents reporting their children are watching 25 per cent less than they did before.

Clare Walter from Nottingham, whose five-year-old daughter Ruby is enrolled in the Imagination Library, said, 'Receiving her own book in the post has helped her to develop a real excitement for books, which inspired her to want to learn to read them for herself.

'This has given Ruby a brilliant head start in reading. It has also encouraged the rest of our family to read more too.'

The Imagination Library has recently joined forces with the Scottish Book Trust and the Scottish government and from this summer, every pre-school child in care in Scotland will receive a free book every month until their fifth birthday (News, 15 March).

American country and western singer Dolly Parton originally launched the scheme in 1996 in her home county of Sevier in Tennessee. It now operates in the US, Canada and the UK.

In 2007, Rotherham Council became the first UK sponsor to join the Imagination Library, part of the Dollywood Foundation (News, 13 December 2007).

Local sponsors pay £2 for each book, including postage and packaging costs. The Dollywood Foundation manages the ordering, labelling and registration process so that each child receives the right book for their age.

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