Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library —Shenandoah County Chapter celebrates 100,000 books mailed |

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library —Shenandoah County Chapter celebrates 100,000 books mailed |

The Shenandoah County Chapter of the the Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebrated on Thursday mailing out 100,000 books to Shenandoah County children.

The 100 Grand Dance Party at the Shenandoah County Library included dancing activities, snacks, stories, prizes, and free books for the children.

Sponsored by the Dollywood Foundation, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library mails out new age-appropriate books to children every month.

In 2013, Shenandoah County teachers Dana Conlon and Susan Tusing started the DPIL Shenandoah County Chapter and opened registration to any child from birth to age 5 in Shenandoah County.

“When we started we had a limit for how many could register. We started with 400 kids, then we moved up to 1,000, and now we’re at 1,300,” Tusing said.

Tusing teaches third grade at Honey Run Elementary School. Conlon works as a paraprofessional at W.W. Robinson Elementary School for special education and Pre-K.

“There are an increasing number of children in our community who need speech and language services, so those are things that can be developed at home before they start kindergarten just by talking with your child and conversing with your child,” Tusing said.

There are currently 1,277 children enrolled in the DPIL program in Shenandoah County and 2,027 children have graduated from the program once they entered kindergarten. Every child receives a book appropriate to their age every month when enrolled in the program. As of June, the program has mailed out 100,359 free books to children in Shenandoah County.

Tusing said that the program does more than just help kids learn how to read.

“It’s to develop oral language skills, develop a love of learning, and a love of books because what we’re finding is children who have high oral language are going to be on target for reading, even if they’re not reading before kindergarten,” Tusing said.

Although the DPIL program is completely free for children, there is a cost for mailing the books. That cost is $25 a year per child to receive a book every month. The cost is covered by donations and grants.

“The money that we raise is to cover the postage, but Dolly and the Dollywood Foundation are providing those books for free,” Conlon said. “The money that we get from generous donors pays for the postage.”

The DPIL program in Shenandoah County has received grants from the Shenandoah Education Foundation, the Shenandoah County Library Foundation, the Shenandoah Community Foundation, the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and the Moore Educational Trust. DPIL has also received donations from local Rotary clubs, individuals, businesses, and other local contributors.

The funding required to mail out free books to children in the county costs nearly $30,000 a year.

“We’re still fundraising because our goal is to have everybody in Shenandoah County aged 5 and under registered for these books,” Tusing said.

Tusing said that she has seen a lot of children who have been a part of the program and developed strong oral language skills. “Most of them are above where they need to be by the time they start school,” said Tusing.

Anyone interested in donating to the DPIL program can send donations to the Shenandoah Education Foundation. Checks can be sent to Shenandoah Education Foundation, P.O. Box 607, Woodstock, VA 22664. Be sure to put DPIL on the envelope or the check.

Families interested in enrolling their children can register online at

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