A publication of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives

Our Communities
Home | Our Communities | Closing the Book on Illiteracy

Closing the Book on Illiteracy

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library comes to Isle of Wight

April 2023

From left, Smithfield Foods Senior Community Development Manager Jonathan Toms and Kyle DeGood, president and founder of The DeGood Foundation, pose with Dolly Parton Look-a-Like Contest winner Claire Childs,
as her mother takes a photo during the Feb. 18 Dolly Parton Imagination Library kickoff event in Smithfield.

A BLOW AGAINST ILLITERACY HAS BEEN STRUCK IN ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY. Smithfield Foods, in conjunction with the DeGood Foundation and other state and local partners, has brought singer-songwriter and philanthropist Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the county, home to many Community Electric Cooperative members.

Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, Parton started her Imagination Library in 1995 for children within her home county in Tennessee. Today, her program spans five countries and gifts over two million free books each month to children around the world through funding shared by Parton and local community partners. Children who are registered with the program receive a free brand-new, age-appropriate book in the mail every single month from the time they’re born until they start kindergarten at age five.

“I have personally been a fan of this program for a long time,” says Jonathan Toms, senior community development manager for Smithfield Foods. “It’s wonderful that we can now bring this great resource here, locally.”

Kyle DeGood, who founded the nonprofit DeGood Foundation in 2017 to address children’s literacy and other local childcare issues within the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, says the Isle of Wight extension of Parton’s Imagination Library is one of his foundation’s biggest achievements to date.

“This has been our most successful regional launch in Virginia,” says DeGood, who has aided in launching three additional Imagination Libraries in Newport News, Hampton and York. “Our research shows that nearly a quarter of children in lower-income households are not kindergarten-ready in terms of literacy once they reach kindergarten age. This is going to make a huge impact on this community.”

For more information, visit imaginationlibrary.com.