By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Earlier this week, the Navarro County Gazette shared a press release about Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library” program coming to Navarro County.

The good news is, the program is already here. And you can register for it right now.

The program is easy to register: Visit the Imagination Library website, click on “Check Availability” and fill out the form to enroll a child. From birth to a child’s fifth birthday, young readers living in Navarro County will be sent up to 60 pre-selected age appropriate books (available in English or Spanish language editions) for free. There is no charge to register, or subscription fees, nor are there any requirements for income, age, religion, ethnicity, gender, or limit for number of children under five per household (each child can be registered separately). The program is ongoing, so there is no cutoff deadline to apply.

That’s it. That’s all a parent or guardian is required to do to join the Imagination Library.

Rev. Jen Mitchell and project leader, retired Naval Captain Joe Hill, introduce the program to Navarro County. – Photos by Guy Chapman

The program was brought to Navarro County courtesy of the efforts and partnership of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Rev. Jen Mitchell, Pastor at Westminster, and project leader, retired Naval Captain Joe Hill. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Navarro County, Texas becomes the forty-second partnership in the state.

“By providing these free books to families, the mission of the Imagination Library is really two fold,” Mitchell said. “The first one is to encourage the love of books in children beginning at birth, and hopefully that love will continue throughout the rest of their lives. And that will help with their reading skills and enhance their quality of life, which is greatly needed for everyone that age.”

“And the second is to build strong family units through parents reading to their children and creating that bond with parent and child.”

The members of Westminster church were enthusiastic about adopting and bringing this program to Navarro County. The church also finances the program and accepts to donations for its continuation.

“This internationally acclaimed organization is now our own,” Hill said. “We’re excited about it, and we worked hard, and I thank Pastor Jen.”

“This all of course began with Dolly,” Hill added.

Music fans well know of Parton’s longstanding career: The Tennessee born artist has spent decades in the public spotlight as an American singer-songwriter, actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist. Parton launched the Imagination Library program in 1995 as a tribute to her father, and by 2022, the program mails two million books each month globally.

The Imagination Library’s website describes itself as: “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five, through funding shared by Dolly Parton and local community partners in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Republic of Ireland.”

Parton’s dream is that all children will grow up in a home full of books.

“The first step is always the hardest, but you’ll never know unless you try,” Parton is quoted on her website.

As for Navarro Country, Hill will be traveling to all the communities in the county to promote the program.

“You may ask ‘Why are you doing this,'” Hill said or the program. “We do it because we believe in the mission of the Imagination Library. To provide free books to eligible children so they can acquire a love for books at an early age.”

Hill points to a small sign on his speaking podium.

“This is one of my favorite sayings right here,” Hill says. “Children fall in love with books because of the memories created when they snuggle up and read books with someone they love.”

“The most important thing you can give (children) is your time,” Hill added. “There’s nothing like setting aside five, ten, fifteen minutes to read to the child, and we want to promote that.”

To apply for the Imagination Library, visit the website, or scan the QR code on the flyer below.

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