Amazon gives gift to help children read

Representatives from the Wilson County Imagination Library program thanked Amazon – statewide partner of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation  – for its recent $6,250 contribution to the popular books-for-preschoolers program Thursday at Sam Houston Elementary School....
May 23, 2013
 Photo: Submitted to The Democrat

Mark Marzano, general manager of Amazon’s Lebanon Fulfillment Center, reads to children at Sam Houston Elementary School on Thursday. On behalf of Amazon, Marzano presented a $6,250 donation to the Wilson County Imagination Library program.

Representatives from the Wilson County Imagination Library program thanked Amazon – statewide partner of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation  – for its recent $6,250 contribution to the popular books-for-preschoolers program Thursday at Sam Houston Elementary School.

The gift was one-fourth of Amazon’s $25,000 total donation to the foundation, which was distributed evenly among Imagination Library affiliates in the four counties where Amazon has fulfillment centers – in Bradley, Hamilton, Rutherford and Wilson counties – and used to provide free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to preschool children up to 5 years old living in those areas.

Sue Vanatta, president and chief executive of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, attended the event to thank Amazon and read to the children on behalf of the Wilson County Imagination Library program.

Peggy Simpson, local Imagination Library program leader, thanked Amazon for its generosity, citing the impact the gift will make in the local community.

“The Imagination Library is thriving in Wilson County because of the support we get from partners like Amazon, a company that understands the importance of having books in the home from birth,” Simpson said. “Amazon’s generous support of the communities where its employees live and work will touch the lives of children in Wilson County.”

The company 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.”

Mark Marzano, general manager of Amazon’s Lebanon 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.

“The associates and staff at Amazon’s Lebanon Fulfillment Center are excited to give back to the community,” Marzano said. “Our children have enormous potential and we want to make a difference by instilling a love of reading that will help them develop and expand their horizon. We sincerely appreciate the work and support the mission of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and the Wilson County Imagination Library program.”

All of Tennessee’s 408,000 children under age 5 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, the Imagination Library mails one new, high-quality, age-appropriate book every month to registered children, from birth until age 5 – at no cost to families, regardless of income.

Nearly 18 million books have been delivered since the GBBF’s inception in October 2004. About $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,” Carl said.

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