Sara Flynn reads a book from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to her son Theo at her home in Middletown. The program is expanding to include Clark County. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Free books offered to kids in New Carlisle, thanks to Dolly Parton

While visiting friends in Tennessee we learned about a wonderful statewide program sponsored by Dolly Parton.

Now this program had nothing to do with singing or amusement parks. But it had everything to do with two adorable red-headed children we saw sitting on their front porch reading an illustrated children’s book that looked a bit different from the one I’d read to my kids.

RELATED: Clark, Champaign United Way works to start literacy program

I found it was a special printing sponsored by Dolly Parton and from an innovative program called the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. This book was available free to children from birth to their 5th birthday in Tennessee.

This project was started in 1995 as an effort to help children from Parton’s county in Tennessee develop a love of reading and be enthusiastic about books. She decided to mail high-quality books to children each month so that they would have access to books regardless of their family’s ability to pay. The idea blossomed and test scores went up.

Since 2000, Parton’s organization agreed to work with any community that would partner with her to fund similar projects in their communities. According to the project’s website, more than 80 million books have been distributed in 1,600 communities.

Now for the exciting news. This program will soon be available for children from birth to their 5th birthday who live in the Tecumseh Local School District. Their addresses should be in the 45344, 45341 or 45319 zip codes. Registration can be done online at this site http://usa.imaginationlibrary.com.

One small section of the district has a different zip code, but children in that area can still get the books by filling out the form at the New Carlisle Public Library.

These books are free and should begin arriving in March 2017. Even babies can receive the books in the mail and can accumulate a nice stack of books by the time they turn 5. What fun for them.

READ MORE: Logan County unveils program to give children free books

This wonderful program is available because of the hard work of good folks like New Carlisle Library Director Bryan Howard, Children’s Librarian Maggie Bollar, Tecumseh Assistant Superintendent Paula Crew, Sue Ann Martin and more.

And by the generous donations by the New Carlisle Rotary Club, Park Layne Elementary School, the Tecumseh Local Schools, the New Carlisle Breakfast Optimist Club, the Friends of the New Carlisle Public Library, the New Carlisle Public Library Board, Family and Youth Initiatives and the United Way of Clark, Champaign & Madison Counties.

The United Way will hold a fundraiser, Power of the Purse, at 5 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts & Conference Center in downtown Springfield to spread the program countywide.

“Reading is so important — it helps with language development, builds healthy habits and helps parents and children bond — among so many other great things,” said Sue Ann Martin who posted this statement. “As a board member at the library and with the Optimists, I happily celebrate this fabulous milestone. Thanks to so many people and organizations this is happening! Our community is great!”

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