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Program would provide books to every child

Curtis Simpson said he was a high school graduate before he ever sat down “just to read a book.”

It was a different time, the Jack-sonville, Fla., native said.

“Everybody was concentrating on graduating and getting a job,” he said. “If you could just get through high school, it would be OK.”

He thinks it is because he missed the experience of reading for pleasure as a youngster that he became intrigued with a foundation founded by Dolly Parton, the Imagination Library.

“I fell in love with the program,” Simpson said. “When we start this, every child born in Covington County will receive 60 books by the time he or she goes to school.”

Parton’s Imagination Library was launched in 1996 for preschoolers in Sevier County, Tenn., as a gift of encouragement for the children of her Smoky Mountain homeland

The program has since expanded around the world, Simpson said. By the year’s end, he plans to bring it to Covington County.

Simpson said he is seeking sponsors for the non-profit, which will operate with a 501C-3 for mailing purposes. The program costs $2.33 per child per month.

“I’ve met with the hospital and they deliver about 450 children a year,” Simpson said. “So we need $13,500 a year, and when we are expanded to cover five years, we’ll need about $67,000 a year.”

A committee composed of individuals from education, child development, academia and early childhood literacy select the books for Dolly’s Imagination Library. The children’s classic, The Little Engine That Could is the first book of each library and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate is the final book in the collection. Each book is addressed and mailed to the child.

Simpson said presenters at the national convention at which he learned about The Imagination Library told stories about children waiting at the mailbox of their books.

“Children start kindergarten knowing that you read from left to right and that words describe the pictures on a page,” he said.

At present, he is sending letters to potential sponsors and following up with them. Anyone interested in the program is asked to contact him at 427-9907 or 488-4303, or by email at csim676305@aol.com.