New chapter begins for children in Burnley as library initiative launched by global country star Dolly Parton comes to town

Free books will be handed out to 75 children in Burnley and Padiham every month thanks to an initiative launched by the iconic country singer Dolly Parton.
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In a bid to foster a love of reading and help increase literacy levels across the area Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has partnered up with local businesses to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to

nursery school children within the borough.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was started by the global star, famous for a string of hit songs including '9 to 5' and 'Jolene' in her home state of Tennessee in 1995 to provide children up to the age of five a free book in the post.

Pictured at the launch of the Imagination Library are (left to right) Lisa Davies,  manager at SPAR, Padham Road, Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham and Thomas Murphy, marketing manager at James Hall and Co.Pictured at the launch of the Imagination Library are (left to right) Lisa Davies,  manager at SPAR, Padham Road, Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham and Thomas Murphy, marketing manager at James Hall and Co.
Pictured at the launch of the Imagination Library are (left to right) Lisa Davies, manager at SPAR, Padham Road, Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham and Thomas Murphy, marketing manager at James Hall and Co.
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It aims to encourage parents to read with their children on a regular basis, posting over one million specially selected, age-appropriate books each month in America, Canada and now the UK.

As a starting figure 75 children from five nurseries in Burnley and Padiham will each receive a monthly book

in the post completely free of charge, with the costs being covered by contributions from the MP and local

businesses. And that number could increase as more sources of funding are found.

Country singer Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995 (Getty Images)Country singer Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995 (Getty Images)
Country singer Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995 (Getty Images)
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Antony launched the reading project with initial support from James Hall and Co, a fifth-generation family company which owns over 600 SPAR stores across the country.

Announcing its launch this week Antony said: "I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to get this amazing initiative up and running in our borough.

"And I’m really thankful to James Hall and Co for their initial sponsorship.

"It’s so important that children within Burnley and Padiham are given the best start in life and part of that is about fostering a love of reading from a young age. That’s what has motivated me to bring the Imagination Library to our area.

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"We’re currently able to provide these books to 75 families, split across five nurseries but the task of

raising more money to expand the project to yet more children will continue."

Thomas Murphy, who is marketing manager at James Hall and Co. said: "“SPAR has multiple stores in Burnley and Padiham and we are thrilled to be able to give back to our customers and help introduce this fantastic initiative to the local community.

“Many families are struggling right now and may not be able to afford books for their children to read. We really hope that having a book delivered straight to the family home each month will be something to look forward to, encourage precious reading time together and help develop key skills that are instrumental to a child’s development and self-confidence.”

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Jackie Clarey who teaches at Rosegrove Nursery School, one of the first nurseries to benefit from the

scheme said: “We are very excited about joining the Imagination Library Initiative.

"This funding has provided a great opportunity for several of our children to experience sharing quality books in their homes.

"The stories can also be enjoyed by other people in their family, it’s important for children to see their parents enjoying reading.

"We know that Imagination Library will support many areas of language development including speaking, listening and concentration.”