Dolly Parton gives boost to free books scheme

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Country singer Dolly Parton has released a video to promote the expansion of her reading programme for under-fives.

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Dolly Parton's Imagination Library scheme gives free books to under-fives

The ‘Imagination Library’, which she started in the United States in 1995, aims to deliver one free book every month to every child in Nottingham, from birth up to their fifth birthday, to encourage a love of books.

The singer posted a video in which she explains the local initiative, starting with the East Midlands greeting ‘Ay up mi duck’.’ The message launches a week of action to promote Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and raise donations.

The singer has given Nottingham City Council an exclusive song from her new children’s music album, due to be released in the autumn. The track, I Believe in You, can be downloaded for free and the profits from the rest of the album will be dedicated to support the Imagination Library.

Dolly Parton said, ‘This programme is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in our communities.

‘I want kids to love books, to have an emotional connection – even a reverence for books.

‘I am most proud of the fact that every child in the Imagination Library does not have to grow up without books in their home.’

In the UK the scheme started in Rotherham in 2007 and now runs in several towns and cities across the UK. Nearly 30,000 children have registered, receiving a total of 1.3m books.

It has already been running successfully in some parts of Nottingham and is now expanding to four more areas.

The expansion is being made possible by Small Steps Big Changes, a £45m programme of activities and initiatives sponsored by Nottingham CityCare partnership to support children in the city from birth to three.

It was started in Nottingham in 2009 by Cheryl Mitchell, a teaching assistant at Fernwood Infant School in Wollaton, who campaigned to raise funds and get local support.

The council hopes it can be expanded across the entire city thanks to donations from the public – in a bid to improve reading skills.

So far, 1,384 children have registered in the city and almost 17,000 books have been distributed.

Children in Nottingham start school with literacy levels about 14 per cent behind the national average, according to the council.

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