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Dolly Parton said that she is “excited” that her Imagination Library project will launch in Cork on Wednesday, bringing books to some 3,000 children.
The country music legend said: “I truly believe that if every child has a song in their heart and a book in their hand, they can see all of their dreams come true.
“Cork, and all of Ireland, has a special place in my heart. It feels like home to me and hopefully one day, sooner than later, I will be coming home again!”
As part of the global initiative, one book will be sent every month to registered children from birth to age five in participating communities, allowing them to build their own libraries.
The Imagination Library has already shared 147m books with children since the project launched as part of The Dollywood Foundation in 1995.
Communities have been selected across Cork city and county, and families in these areas can register from Wednesday.
“You can never get enough books into the hands of young children,” country music icon Dolly said.
“I know there are children in Ireland with their own dreams — the dream of becoming a doctor, an inventor, or a teacher. Who knows; maybe a writer, or singer. The seeds of these dreams can often be found in books and the seeds planted in a community can grow across the world.”
Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme, a community-based prevention, promotion and early intervention programme on the northside of Cork city, is leading the Imagination Library’s introduction to Cork with support from the Cork Interagency Working Group and funding partners.
Grace Walsh, speech and language therapist with Young Knocknaheeny, said they wanted to launch the project in Cork after hearing of its success in Tallaght, Dublin, where it was brought to Ireland for the first time in February 2019.
Some 4,980 children have enrolled in this programme and a further 1,470 children have graduated from it.
Almost 87,000 children’s books have been gifted in Tallaght through this programme to date.
“Dolly Parton set up this project to inspire a love of reading from an early age,” Ms Walsh said.
“So much research shows now that early literacy skills can predict later learning, language and literacy success. So setting up that foundation really early on, giving children as many skills as possible, can help them achieve their potential.”
The project is completely free to families as local fundraising pays for the cost price of the books and An Post has offered to deliver the books for free this year.
Families from Knocknaheeny, Hollyhill, Gurranabraher, Churchfield, Mahon, Carrigtwohill, Ashbourne House direct provision centre and the Kinsale Road direct provision centre have been chosen to partake in this project, although Ms Walsh hopes that it will eventually be extended to all children in Ireland.
“Any families living in these areas can register and a free book will be delivered to their home every month, addressed to them, so the child can start building their own library and will know that someone was thinking of them, that they’re special,” Ms Walsh said.