Dolly Parton Book Program for Kids coming to Fluvanna

Contributed by Mike Feazel

     A program to deliver a free monthly book to every pre-school child in Fluvanna County is being organized, and already has raised $8,300 of the recommended $10,180 to fund the program for the first three years. 

The idea is to create a Fluvanna chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL). Of the 28 central Virginia counties, 17 already have a DPIL chapter operating, said organizer Lynda Harrill. 

 Harrill, who operates out of Albemarle County, is looking for a Fluvanna County “spark plug” to get the Fluvanna chapter going. The next step is to create an advisory committee made up of people from throughout the county to help with planning and completing the fundraising, she said. One goal would be to find ongoing donors to sustain the program with annual giving commitments. 

Harrill hopes to get the Fluvanna County program going and books flowing quickly, saying the Greene County program was operational in about three months, even though it started with no money. And the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham started a DPIL chapter in March 2022 and already has 1,921 kids signed up. 

     “Fluvanna is starting out with $8,300 of the money already raised,” Harrill said, expressing confidence in a quick start here. The $8,300 came from 100+ Women Who Care, said group member Betsy Gunnels of Lake Monticello. She said Harrill made a recent pitch to the group and was quickly funded. 

DPIL is a book-gifting program for kids under five, mailing an age-appropriate book to the child’s home each month for kids from birth until age five at no cost to families. The books cost DPIL $2.10 per book, or $25.20 per year for each child. Typically, a local nonprofit partners with Dollywood Foundation to raise funds and market and administer the program. 

There are about 1,344 kids under age five in Fluvanna County, Harrill said. She said experience shows the program typically reaches about 65 percent participation (or 873 kids in Fluvanna) within five years. Parents sign up to enroll their children in the program. DPIL typically works with schools, churches, local organizations, pediatricians, and others to encourage parents to sign their children up. 

The book program is important because “reading scores could use a boost,” and exposing children to books and reading early is the best way to do that, Harrill said. “Kids need exposure to books before they attend school. Kids just aren’t ready when they get to school, so they end up playing catch up the whole time.” 

Harrill has long been involved in organizing a tennis program for young children, which evolved to giving them books as well. During the pandemic, the tennis program pretty much shut down, so she pivoted to focusing on books, she said. The tennis program has since re-started. 

Additional information is available on the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Fluvanna Start Up page (you have to ask for an invitation to join), or at  and click on Dolly Parton’s IL.

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