The one-and-only Dolly Parton has been popping up around Chilliwack over the past while.
She isn’t saying much, but that big, bright smile has been seen at the Jinkerson Stairs, in local stores, and even on a popular Facebook page. And everywhere she goes, she’s reading a children’s book.
That’s because this Dolly is actually a life-size cut-out being used to promote Imagination Library, an early literacy program headed up by the infamous country star herself. And since she can’t make it to the thousands of communities across North America that have an affiliate, the people at Imagination Library Fraser Valley decided to have some fun.
They moved her around town to help promote the program, and especially to encourage people to donate during a local Christmas in July campaign.
Bradley Gionet joined the advisory committee for the Imagination Library Fraser Valley a few months ago. He is also the brains behind Coronaoke, which encouraged people to share songs of themselves singing while in isolation. He had been looking for ways to boost the collective community spirit, as well as support struggling local businesses and organizations.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gionet decided to spread the joy of giving by launching a community-wide Christmas in July campaign.
“After a difficult year for so many, I decided we needed two Christmases,” he says. “I have three asks. Honour your family Christmas traditions. Shop in real local brick and mortar businesses for any gift giving or personal purchases. Support local charity or not for profit initiatives as you are able.”
The Imagination Library Fraser Valley currently has 64 kids on the wait list to join the program, which gives them free books once a month. The cost to fund the waiting list is $7,300, and they are hoping to raise $15,000 this year.
The Dollywood Foundation covers the infrastructure costs to support the program (book selection, negotiating printing costs, planning, allocation and book distribution etc.). Local affiliates are responsible to fundraise for the cost of books and shipping (our average cost is $3.55 per book including postage).
“We have noticed an increase in applications across the country since COVID-19 took hold,” says board member Brian Martin. “We believe this is because traditional elementary education has been thrown into turmoil, with plans uncertain for a full return in the fall. Parents are looking for additional ways to occupy their children and suspect a return to traditional activities – like reading – are gaining traction.”
Research has shown that participating children are better prepared for kindergarten when they are read to on a regular basis, he adds. That leads to better success in early grades, and so forth.
“It’s a long game strategy to provide all kids with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances if they come from a less advantaged household,” Martin says.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Fraser Valley provides free books for children from birth to 5 years old. Every month, an age appropriate book will arrive instilling excitement around reading and learning. One of the books given away in the past was Counting on Snow by local author and illustrator Max Newhouse.
Locally, they cover Hope through Chilliwack including Harrison, Agassiz, Rosedale, Cultus and Sardis.
Donations can now be accepted online here: https://imaginationlibrary.com/ca/affiliate/BCFRASERVALLEY/
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