Burns brings Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Cambria County

Children’s book program made possible thanks to state grant

EBENSBURG, Oct. 27 – Today state Rep. Frank Burns announced he has secured state grant funding to help bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to the children of Cambria County.

The literacy program started by the country music legend sends free books to children from birth to age 5 each month in communities around the world. Burns became interested in bringing the program to Cambria County after hearing Dolly speak about it at a national legislative conference.

“Reading is a gateway skill that opens doors and makes all other learning possible,” Burns said. “We know the pre-kindergarten years are a child’s most formative.  There’s no greater investment we can make in their future success than to support reading and early literacy.”

For more than a year, Burns has worked to bring The Imagination Library to Cambria County and was thrilled when St. Francis University agreed to be the local partnering organization. The state grant was an important piece of the puzzle, enabling the university to move forward in partnering with The Dollywood Foundation to get the program up and running in Cambria County.

“I always like it when Rep. Burns calls the university because he always has great ideas for us and we’re always exited to partner with him,” said the Very Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, president of the university.  “We said ‘yes’ without hesitation to getting involved in this project. My thanks to Rep. Burns, especially for his hard work in this area. It’s so basic, but so important, and I appreciate the passion he has and we’re happy to share that passion with him.”

The Imagination Library started in 1995 with just 1,700 books. Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends more than one million books per month to children around the world. The grant Burns secured will pay for one year of the program, which will be administered by St. Francis.  Details about how families can register for this free program will be coming over the next few months.

“When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams,” Dolly Parton has said about the program. “The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

According to Harvard research, 90% of a child’s brain development occurs by age 5. Exposure to reading is crucial during these early years, so getting a good book in a child’s hands every month goes a long way to accelerating their development and improving literacy by the time they enter kindergarten.

“This has the potential to have a huge impact on our community,” Burns said. “I searched high and low for funding for this program, even meeting with the governor to bring it to his attention. Today, I’m happy that hard work has paid off, and I look forward to seeing these books in the hands of our children.”