A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Following Dolly’s lead, Everett Dameron becomes an Imagination Library champion to get books to kids

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Imagine the excitement of a child receiving a book addressed specifically to them in the mail. Think about books coming into the home and staying, creating a library for the child and family. Now, what if this could happen for free?

This is a reality with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL).

Founded in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) was inspired by her father’s inability to read and write. The program enrolls children, in participating communities, age’s birth to five and mails the child a book every month at no cost. What began as a local program, the DPIL currently mails more than 1,400,000 books a month to children in the U.S., Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Everett Dameron saw a need locally, a need to improve education in the area and thought working directly with students was the best solution.

A voracious reader himself, Dameron saw first-hand the effects of illiteracy in his own company as high school graduates he employed could not read user manuals provided to them. Everett has no children of his own but took this issue and turned it into his passion; passion for literacy, education, and changing lives. He has channeled it into bringing DPIL to Covington.

In order for area children to be able to participate in the program, a local Champion is required.

Everett stepped up to the task, bringing Dolly Parton’s program to Covington as the Northern Kentucky Dolly Parton Imagination Library (NKYDPIL).

To make this succeed, he recruited help from Marilyn Donnelly and daughters Amy and Kristin, Jo Rogers, Holly Jung and other volunteers and partnered with the 501(c)3 non-profit Notre Dame Urban Education Center. Together this group of volunteers brings books, reading and involvement to children living in Covington zip codes.

Everett began the process of bringing DPIL to Covington three years ago. Life took a detour, and after surviving a life-threatening health issue, he made a promise that no matter what, he was going to make this work. The Champion registers local children, manages ordering processes, and pays postage costs.

With its current budget, the NKYDPIL is only able to operate in the five zip codes of Covington. The group dreams of expanding. They want to take the program to children in Newport who are on the waiting list, but financially they must be able to meet the needs of the Covington community first.

NKYDPIL began registering children in February of 2018 and sent the first shipment of books in March. At that time DPIL had 90 children in the Covington zip codes on a waiting list. Today there are 342 children receiving a free book every month. The goal for this year is to increase enrollment to 750 children. At this point in time, they are enrolling approximately 30-40 new children per month, and that is just by word of mouth. To sustain enrollment and meet this growing demand NKYDPIL needs to raise $19,000.

Incredibly, the cost of this program is only $2.10 per book per month. For just $25 a child can receive one free book a month for an entire year!

NKYDPIL pays for the shipment of books, that’s their only cost. All donations stay locally and can be made through the non-profit Notre Dame Urban Education Center (NDUEC).

Every penny donated goes toward the cost shipping of books. The work done for the program is completely volunteer. There are no administrative costs, memberships, or monthly fees. Dolly Parton’s foundation has made this into an extremely efficient and cost-effective program.

Long-term goals are to raise enough money for a trust fund, to keep the program operating in perpetuity and to expand into surrounding communities. This would require $1.3 million.

According to 20 years of research by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, having a child enrolled shows “promise in promoting changes in home literacy environments, children’s attitudes toward reading, and early literacy skills.” Children who were enrolled had more advanced early literacy skills than classmates who were not in the program.

Books are imperative to early literacy skills by developing letter knowledge/recognition, learning alphabetic principles such as sounds and phonics, increasing vocabulary, understanding oral sounds, syllables and words, and improving auditory memory. Learning by touch is a factor in babies up to about age three.

The Blue Ribbon Selection Committee thoughtfully selects the books based on age appropriateness. Every child receives the timeless classic by Watty Piper, “The Little Engine That Could.” When the child reaches age five and graduates from the program they receive, “Lookout Kindergarten, Here I Come” by Nancy Carlson.

Each book has a leaf which contains continuing education ideas, providing more activities and to keep interaction from the book going. For example, one book mailed in December had an activity of baking cookies with Grandma. DPIL also provides bilingual books and in braille.

Our local NKYDPIL Champion can use help. First and foremost they need donations to keep the books shipping out.

Donations can be made by check to NDUEC with NKYDPIL on the memo line and mailed to NDUEC 14 E 8th Street, Covington, KY 41011. Or, donate online with PayPal at www.nkydpil.com.

Additionally, this group could use help with fundraising and finding potential grants to write. If you have any ideas please contact NKYDPIL at www.nkydpil.com. Stay updated by following them on Facebook.

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One Comment

  1. Snap Tonneau says:

    Awesome idea to get the kids into the books. Letting my kids choose their own stuff at the supermarket works. Guess it will be effective too for their schooling interests.

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