While the singer-songwriter, author, actress and philanthropist is not a member of The Junior League, she is playing a vital role in an important project by the Junior League of Birmingham to foster literacy through an innovative program that puts books in the hands of kids and their parents at what many educators say is the best time: before they go to school and before they even attempt to learn how to read.

The JLB Imagination Library, in partnership with the Dollywood Foundation, has made the 60-volume Dolly Parton Imagination Library available to all children under the age of 5 in Jefferson County, Alabama.  Each month, from birth to age 5, every child registered will receive a high-quality, age appropriate book in the mail free of charge.

Like JLB’s Book Buddies program, which partners with the Children’s Literacy Guild of Alabama to collect books suitable for children and adults through a community-wide book drive, the JLB Imagination Library is part of a decades-long effort by many of the 292 individual Junior Leagues to support literacy in children and adults.

Other innovative programs include:

  • The Junior League of the Lehigh Valley’s Books for Babies program acquaints parents of newborns with the important role they play in the development of their child’s mind and the start of lifelong learning for their child.  The program provides a kit from Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA).  The packet includes materials on ways to encourage reading, information on local libraries and a baby board book.  The book deliveries are done through Lamaze classes and community organizations.
  • Through a partnership with the Bring Me A Book Foundation (BMAB), which was founded to serve children from low-income families who do not have access to quality books and who are not read aloud to on a regular basis, the Junior League of San Jose supports BMAB’s First Teachers Training Program.  The First Teachers Training Program recognizes the role of parents, caretakers and pre-school teachers as a child’s “first teachers” in their introduction to the world of reading.  Junior League of San Jose volunteers provide training assistance on the critical importance of reading aloud and read-aloud strategies.
  • Lead, Empower and Promote Self-Esteem or “LEAPS” is a project initiated by the Junior League of Waco in the fall of 2004 at North Waco Elementary School.  The program’s goal is to build the self-esteem of second and third grade students who have been identified by the school’s administration as at-risk.  Junior League volunteers meet with two children every week for 30-45 minutes on a one-on-one basis.  During their weekly visits, the volunteers read with their child and in the process, develop personal relationships with the child, all the while impressing on the child that they are special and important.  In helping build self-esteem, social behaviors and academic performance are also positively affected.  Parents have reported improvements in their child’s behavior and attitude, and teachers and staff also report better grades, behavior and attendance for the children involved.
  • The Junior League of Binghamton’s Story Garden promotes reading by allowing children to interact with characters from some of literature’s best loved stories.  The interactive, safe, outdoor space allows children to enter the world of Peter Rabbit by planting and sowing in his garden, visit the home of the Three Bears just as Goldilocks did and more.  Since its opening, the Story Garden has been visited by countless children and their families in the Southern Tier area of New York with some children and families even stopping by for a visit from outside of the state.
  • Since 1942, the Junior League of St. Petersburg has been delighting children with the Library Puppets program.  Junior League of St. Petersburg volunteers use puppets to act out a chosen and popular children’s tale at the St. Petersburg Main Library.  After the show, children can meet and greet the puppets then they are taken on a tour of the library and introduced to the children’s section of the library.