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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to go statewide; books include one by Newark author

John Micklos of Newark's "One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me" picture book is among this year's Reading Imagination choices.

Delaware’s about to get a little more Dollyed up.

Singing legend Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which mails books each month to children from birth until the children’s 5th birthday, is about to expand throughout Delaware, Gov. John Carney and First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney announced Monday afternoon.

Those books going to Delaware children this year include one by a Delaware author.

John Micklos of Newark’s “One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me” picture book is among this year’s selections, he was told at the start of the year. He’s read the book at a lot of Delaware literacy and author events.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the children of the state of Delaware,” Micklos said Monday. “The program does remarkable things in helping promote a love of reading among children and families.”

Receiving a book each month eventually creates a personal library of 60 books that help form the foundation of a child’s early reading experience.

“I am so excited to be working with Governor and First Lady Carney to bring my Imagination Library to children and families across Delaware!” Parton said in a press release from the governor’s office. “It takes visionary leaders to make this possible, and I can’t thank them enough.

“It is such an important time to share the gift of books and reading with as many children as we can, and I know Delaware families will love receiving a specially selected book in the mail each month.”

Books for the Imagination Library are selected by a national panel of early childhood literacy experts who review hundreds of children’s books each year.

“A healthy reading habit motivates, inspires and encourages creativity among children and adults alike,” the governor said in the press release. “One of the most important things we can do to improve childhood literacy is to give our children access to books, especially during this challenging time. It’s a simple but powerful idea. That’s why Delaware is proud to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to improve literacy in our state.”

Information and registration are available online through the Delaware Division of Libraries.

Carney had announced a pilot launch of the Imagination Library program in five Delaware school districts in his 2o20 State of the State address. The state Division of Libraries partnered with 13 local public libraries to make the program available to families within the pilot districts. So far, more than 3,800 children have been enrolled in the program and received more than 16,000 books.

The Imagination Library program is an important component of the First Chance Delaware initiative for children, led by Delaware’s First Lady. It promotes learning readiness through literacy and parent-child engagement.

“It’s a great privilege for me to serve as the honorary chair of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in Delaware,” said Mrs. Carney in the press release.“The quantity and quality of early language experience, starting at birth, correlates to children’s academic success at ages nine and 10—the target of our state’s grade-level reading campaign—which then correlates to the likelihood of high-school graduation, which correlates to virtually every positive life outcome from then on.

“Expanding the Imagination Library program in Delaware is a great investment in our families and in our future.”

Parents who enrolled their children with the Imagination Library earlier this year through pilot school districts have already reported positive results, especially in light of the changes to daily lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The books we have received have helped a lot with his vocabulary and his ability to express himself,” said Lewes mom Ashley Durden in the press release. Her son Quentin has been enrolled in the Imagination Library program for the last two years.

“Thank you for bringing reading to everyone in our district and our state; it’s a really great resource to get new books to children at a very young age,” she said.

The program will be paid for by the Delaware Department of State and Division of Libraries, said Jonathan Starkey, spokesman for Gov. Carney. The state will pay per child enrolled, he said, but he was trying to confirm the amount.

Micklos, who has written 30 books in the last decade, has known Parton since he interviewed her years ago for the International Reading Association. 

“She’s so genuine,” he said. “What you see is her.”

He was thrilled to have a book included in her Imagination Library program.

“Dolly often says it’s one of the things she’s the most proud of in her career, being known as the quote-unquote book lady,” Micklos said. “It’s truly a labor of love for her.”

All the authors whose books are included in the program are notified each January, he said.

Last year, Micklos and his wife, Debbie, happened to be in the area when Dollywood, Parton’s amusement park in Tennessee, opened a new attraction, and she invited them to come to the opening. They were posed for a photo with her in front of an Imagination Library backdrop.

It was fun, the Mickloses say.

Watch the announcement in a video posted to YouTube or Facebook

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