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City partners with Dolly Parton to bring free books to little kids

Enrolled children will receive one free book a month until their fifth birthday
2016-09-10 Dolly Parton DMH-1
Dolly Parton performing at the Sault venue formerly known as the Essar Centre on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. Donna Hopper/SooToday

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is preparing to launch a local affiliate of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

"The city is going to be the service manager," said Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo, who brought the literacy-promotion idea to city council.

Kiwanis Club of Sault Ste. Marie has committed $5,000 toward the cost of launching the project here.

Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie has pitched in $6,000.

Sault Ste. Marie Public Library has agreed to promote the free-book offer and Social Services will help by creating awareness among families that have young children that are eligible to participate.

City councillors agreed this month to chip in $5,000 of community development funds.

Founded by iconic country music singer-songwriter, actress and philanthropist Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library addresses social barriers to literacy by mailing free, high-quality age-appropriate books to enrolled children from birth to age 5, regardless of family income.

One book is sent to each enrolled child each month.

In Canada alone, Parton's foundation has gifted three million books in partnership with local program partners.

"The Dollywood Foundation funds and provides the infrastructure of the Imagination Library program including coordinating book selections, negotiating wholesale purchasing, mass printing, and managing a secure centralized book ordering system," Tom Vair, the city's chief administration officer, said in a report to Mayor Shoemaker and city councillors.

"The foundation incurs the cost of the program’s administrative/ overhead expenses and coordinates the fulfillment of monthly book mailing. The local program partner promotes the program, finds and enrols children, secures funding and pays a small community portion per child per month. Community-raised funds go 100 per cent to serving children in their community."

"Based on census data and the calculator provided on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library website, Sault Ste. Marie has approximately 3,040 children in the 0-5 age group," Vair said.

"The cost per book averages $3.85 and, with twelve books per year, the cost per child is $46 each year."

If 20 per cent of those children enrol during the first year, the local cost would be $11,393.

If the number of children enrolling exceeds local contributions, Coun. Caputo said "what we're going to do is cap the amount of kids that can enroll to match whatever funding we have.

"We're hoping as the program rolls out, more folks are going to want to donate to it and watch it grow.... but so for right now we'll be capping it where it is and watching it grow hopefully."

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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