Are you a firm believer in reading?

World Book Day's mission to promote reading for pleasure, and offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own; is a great goal to be a part of.

As you know we team up with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, having successfully delivered almost 7,000 books to over 1,000 children through nine Sure Start Centres in Belfast.

We are now into Year Two of our £75,000 investment into the Flagship Programme of the Dollywood Foundation that is set to bring more books to many more children and young people.

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The reception from parents and children has been extremely positive, with many parents saying the benefit of reading has greatly enhanced their children’s development. 

One mother said: “My children love receiving their books. I read almost daily now whereas before the Imagination Library I couldn't imagine my kids being interested in or benefiting from reading until they were in school. 

“My eldest has probably benefited the most. He has a severe speech delay but he's able to use the books to communicate ideas and feelings. He often switches off the TV and brings me a book to read. He has limited words and sounds but he's able to recognise all his letters, if you ask him to point to 'E' he can. He can also recognise shapes and numbers. It's also encouraged him to talk and try to vocalise his thoughts but in a fun way as he can use pictures to express his thoughts. It's a great tool to communicate and bond.”

The Imagination Library, which was set up by US country music star Dolly Parton in 2007 as the flagship programme of the Dollywood Foundation, sees thousands of children from birth to five years of age around the UK receive a free age-appropriate book in the post every month to support the development of early language and literacy skills, and inspire a lifelong love of reading. 

The books are carefully selected by a committee of experts in the UK and include popular characters such as Spot the Dog and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and authors and illustrators including Ed Vere, Nadia Shireen, and Nick Sharratt. 

The Dollywood Foundation provides the infrastructure enabling the programme, but it is made accessible to children in different locations through partnerships with what the charity calls ‘local champions’. Champions can be businesses, education authorities, small or large organisations, or simply individuals who share in the mission and purpose of the Imagination Library.

We took on the role last year in partnership with nine Sure Start centres across all areas of Belfast. Since then, the scheme has introduced many young children to the skill of reading and the art of storytelling. 

Another parent benefitting from the Imagination Library in Belfast, added: “The surprise books through the door are brilliant. I have to say all of the books that have arrived are so diverse in book style and story. Believe it or not we have not had any duplication with the books we already had!  Both my kids love receiving the books from the postman, as soon as they arrive we rip the plastic off and read them straightaway. The variety of books from the imagination library is outstanding and they are all very good books.”