Dolly Parton sings praises of Nottingham’s milestone 5,000 children with free books

PHOTO: Cllr David Mellen with the 5,000th child to receive the free books, baby Remae Gordon-Goode, with dad Raelle, mum Melanie and sister Kyron

A scheme that gives free books to children has reached a major milestone in Nottingham – and been praised by the charity’s founder Dolly Parton.

A total of 5,000 children aged 0-5 in Nottingham are now on the register to receive a free book every month from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The book-gifting scheme currently covers 10 of the city’s 20 wards. Reaching 5,000 children each month for the first time marks a significant milestone for the Imagination Library in Nottingham.

Country music star and founder, Dolly Parton, has praised the city for its ongoing efforts to ensure children receive free books.

Dolly Parton said:

“Hi Nottingham… Congratulations on yet another success! You are truly special because there are not many programs in the world that provide a book each month to over 5,000 children. So thank you from the bottom of my country heart for all you have done to inspire your children to love books and love learning.”

The Imagination Library is proven to improve children’s literacy levels so that they are more likely to be ready to start school when they turn five. Age appropriate books are delivered addressed to the child every month from birth, allowing them to build up a library of 60 books over five years.

The vision of the Imagination Library was first sparked in Nottingham in 2009 by a Teaching Assistant in Wollaton. Momentum gathered when the Rotary Club of Nottingham worked with Nottingham City Council to help to co-ordinate fundraising which enabled the Imagination Library to be set up in the Nottingham neighbourhood of Bilborough in 2012.

The 5,000th child to receive the free books at any one time in Nottingham is baby Remae Gordon-Goode from Sneinton.

Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years in Nottingham, said:

“This is a significant milestone for our city. The scheme has grown and grown: it is an incredible achievement to have 5,000 children now receiving the free books every month.

“We continue to fundraise for the charity as our ambition is clear: we want every child in Nottingham to receive a free book every month.”

Cllr Mellen is currently undertaking a Big Reading Challenge for the Imagination Library in Nottingham – aiming to read to 5,000 children in 50 days to raise £5,000 for the charity between 28 January and 18 March.

He said: “Reading to 5,000 children over 50 days is an ambitious challenge but it’s a cause I feel strongly about.

“Our children deserve the best possible start in life. We know that reading with children is one of the best ways to set them up for a bright future.

“Not all Nottingham children have access to a range of books in their home and we know that sharing stories regularly can help children be ready for nursery, by which time we know that some Nottingham children are already behind in their development in comparison to their peers.

“This charity ensures that every child receives a free book every month. It’s about giving our children the joy of reading.”

Cllr Mellen is asking for sponsorship money and is hoping to raise at least £5,000 for the Imagination Library. Every donation helps:

  • £2 can pay for a child to get a new book
  • £25 can pay for a child to get a new book each month for a year
  • £125 pays for a child to get a book every month from birth until their 5th birthday

Councillor Mellen’s fundraising page is here: www.gofundme.com/bigreadingchallenge. More information about the Imagination Library in Nottingham is available at www.dollybooksnottingham.org.uk.

The Nottingham scheme is supported by local organisations: The Rotary Club of NottinghamCastle CavendishSmall Steps Big Changes.

About the Dolly Parton Imagination Library

In 1995 Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee. Her vision was to get children to fall in love with reading by giving them a specially selected free book each month from birth until their fifth birthday. By 2000 the scheme was so popular it was rolled out to different communities across the US.

The Nottingham story – The vision of the Imagination Library was first sparked in Nottingham in 2009 by Cheryl Mitchell, a Teaching Assistant at Fernwood Infant School, Wollaton. Cheryl campaigned to raise funds and encouraged people to support the charity.

Momentum gathered when the Rotary Club of Nottingham worked with Nottingham City Council to help to co-ordinate fundraising which enabled the Imagination Library to be set up in the Nottingham neighbourhood of Bilborough. Nottingham City Council’s Children’s Centres were enrolled to administer the scheme and Health Visitors promoted the scheme to parents.

The scheme was then expanded to Hyson Green, Radford and Dunkirk and Lenton thanks to major funding from Castle Cavendish – a regeneration charity which aims to improve the quality of life for people in Nottingham.

In 2014 Nottingham won a National Lottery bid to support more young children. Headed by Nottingham CityCare partnership, Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) is a £45m programme of activities and initiatives to give Nottingham’s 0-3 year olds a better start in life.

The scheme is now running successfully in 10 of the city’s 20 wards.

Share this post!