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Thousands of Marion County families sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Dolly Parton, The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Dolly Parton, The Associated Press

A special library that sends free books to local families’ homes is celebrating a big milestone in Marion County, after only three months in the area.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library ships one free book a month home to kids up to 5 years old with the goal of helping them build their own library at home.

Early Learning Coalition of Marion County Director Carrie Theall said after opening in March, they have almost hit 3,000 enrolled families, and 900 signed up in the first week.

Only about 39% of third graders in Marion County read at or above grade level. She said she’s inspired by how many families want to change that, by signing up for this program.

“We just have families that really understand the importance of early literacy for their children and how children receiving their own books is really important. And building that in-home library for a child really makes a difference in the frequency with which they read,” Theall said.

Theall said she’s looking for more sponsors for the program, which receives some state funding.

“It was an answer to a prayer, to bring Dolly Parton here so that we can start children reading long before third grade. We know that children learn to read up until the third grade. Once they're in third grade. They're reading to learn, so if they don't have those skills, they just fall further and further behind,” Theall said.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library also sends free books home to kids in Orange, Lake, Flagler, Volusia and Polk counties.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.
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