GBBF President Theresa Carl Speaks at Event Celebrating Milestone for Imagination Library of Sullivan County
Volunteer Carrie Schwartz honored for years of tireless dedication to early childhood literacy program
NASHVILLE, Tenn. August 21, 2012 – Theresa Carl, president of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF), was in Blountville at an event last Wednesday to celebrate a major milestone for the Sullivan County Imagination Library: 400,000 books mailed to children. Speaking to a crowd of volunteers, stakeholders and local dignitaries, Ms. Carl congratulated them on their success and presented long-time volunteer and advocate Carrie Schwartz with a letter from Governor Bill Haslam thanking her for her service to the Sullivan County Imagination Library.
“In Sullivan County, 56 percent of all children five years old and under currently receive free books each month,” Ms. Carl said in her remarks. “Since the program began here in 2004, more than 403,000 books have been delivered to children and more than 7,700 of those kids have “graduated” from the program after they reached age five. Behind those numbers are stronger families, higher-achieving children, and a brighter future for all Tennesseans.”
Serving continuously since 2003, Ms. Schwartz has been a dedicated board member and champion of the Sullivan County Imagination Library. She was board chair in 2004, playing a pivotal role in the formation of the organization. In the subsequent years, she has been active in many capacities, including: attending almost every event, working on numerous committees, and speaking publicly about the Imagination Library and the importance of early childhood literacy. Every month finds her picking up returned books at the Piney Flats, Bluff City and Blountville post offices, as she tries to contact families to learn their new addresses and make changes in the database, ensuring every child will continue receiving books.
“Carrie Schwartz is a prodigy of service and an inspiration to her community,” Ms. Carl said. “It has been through the hard work and commitment of volunteers like her that the Imagination Library has grown to encompass all 95 counties in Tennessee.”
As a token of appreciation, Ms. Carl and the GBBF presented Ms. Schwartz with a signed letter from Governor Haslam thanking her for her years of service, as well as a pair of wood-carved Imagination Library bookends – in the shape of the organization’s signature red and white train.
Founded in 1996 as a gift to the children of her hometown of Sevierville, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps children develop a love for reading and learning from birth. Tennessee’s statewide Imagination Library mails a new, age-appropriate, high-quality book every month to registered children, from birth until age five – at no cost to the family and regardless of income. All 407,000 of the state’s children under age five have access to the Imagination Library. To date, over 16 million books have been delivered since the program began in October 2004.
Among U.S. states with active Imagination Library programs, Tennessee stands alone as the only state with participation in every one of its 95 counties. The GBBF works to increase enrollment in the program, estimating that close to 200,000 eligible children (age five and under) are not yet registered.
“We’re working diligently to continue spreading the word about this amazing program, which is a gift of up to 60 brand new books for every child in the state of Tennessee, from birth until age five – all at no cost to families,” said Ms. Carl. “With the spirit of service embodied by Carrie Schwartz, we can all be part of equipping a generation of kids with the tools they’ll need to excel and achieve from the first day of school.”
Currently, 44 percent of Tennessee third graders are reading on grade level. Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out later.
In a recent study conducted by the Urban Child Institute, research showed that programs like the Imagination Library lead to early childhood language development, school readiness, grade progression, on-time graduation and college attendance.
About the GBBF: The mission of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation is to sustain and strengthen Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in all 95 Tennessee counties, ensuring that new, age-appropriate books are mailed to Tennessee’s preschool children, at no cost to the family and regardless of income. To learn how to support your county’s Imagination Library program, or for information on how to register a child, visit www.GovernorsFoundation.org, www.facebook.com/TNImaginationLibrary, or call toll-free at 1-877-99-BOOKS.