The United Way of Greater Chattanooga thanked Amazon – the world’s largest online retailer and a statewide partner of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) – for the recent $6,250 contribution to its “Project Ready for School” program at an event on Tuesday hosted by the Chambliss Center for Children.
The gift was one-fourth of Amazon’s total donation to the GBBF ($25,000), which was distributed evenly among the four counties where Amazon has fulfillment centers – Bradley, Hamilton, Rutherford and Wilson – and used to provide free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to preschool children (up to 5 years old) living in those areas. Eva Dillard, CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga, thanked Amazon for its generosity, citing the tremendous impact the gift will make in the local community.
“Amazon’s donation to the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation demonstrates a huge commitment to local communities and to United Way of Greater Chattanooga in support of early childhood education in our community,” said Ms. Dillard. “Project Ready for School and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are key components in our work in education – early childhood literacy is a major steppingstone on the path to education success and high school graduation. Support from Amazon and the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation will enable United Way of Greater Chattanooga to provide more books to children in our communities. Reading to children is the best way to build the vocabulary they need to succeed in school.”
The company known for shipping its distinctive packages to consumers’ doorsteps is helping the GBBF and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library put books in the mailboxes of Tennessee’s youngest readers.
“As the world’s leading online retailer, Amazon has become virtually synonymous with ‘books,’ and its generous gift of $25,000 only strengthens that association,” said Theresa Carl, GBBF president. “We are truly grateful to Amazon for its commitment to ensuring that free books reach preschool children and investing in their growth and development.”
Mike Thomas, general manager of Amazon’s Chattanooga Fulfillment Center, was on hand to read a book to a class of preschoolers, where he expressed his company’s continuing support for the cause of early childhood literacy.
“Amazon is thrilled to partner with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation by supporting its mission of making sure children have books available at home,” Mr. Thomas said. “Reading is so important in the development and growth of children. The Imagination Library program allows Amazon to make a difference in the lives of so many young Tennesseans, which is humbling and gratifying.”
All of Tennessee’s 408,000 children under age five have access to the Imagination Library, and an Imagination Library program affiliate exists in all 95 counties in the state. Begun by Dolly Parton in 1996 as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, Tn., the Imagination Library mails one new, high-quality, age-appropriate book every month to registered children, from birth until age five – at no cost to families, regardless of income. Nearly 18 million books have been delivered since the GBBF’s inception in October 2004. Approximately $24 annually (or $2 per book) provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to one child. With funding support from the Tennessee General Assembly, various foundations, individual donors and small businesses, and a host of corporate sponsors, the GBBF matches ($12 per book, per child) all funds raised by each of Tennessee’s Imagination Library program affiliates – a dynamic public-private partnership unlike any other in the U.S.
Tennessee is the only state to have the Imagination Library program in every one of its counties.
An increasing amount of research points to the universally positive impact of having books in the home. Imagination Library participants from both low-income and middle-income households arrive to kindergarten more prepared to learn than nonparticipants. A 2010 study indicated that simply having more books around the house correlates to a child’s completing more years of formal education. In January of this year, a team of researchers concluded that reading to a child in an interactive style can raise the child’s IQ by as much as six points.
Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out later. In a recent study conducted by the Urban Child Institute, research showed that programs like the Imagination Library lead to early childhood language development, school readiness, grade progression, on-time graduation and college attendance.
“The benefit of putting books in the hands of Tennessee’s preschoolers is truly immeasurable,” Ms. Carl said.