In front are Leah Stinson, Mattie Hudson, Lisa Hull, Summer Posey Hines, Eric Prince and David Vowell. Second row, from left, are Kelly McQuaig, Debra Stribling, Bernard and Loretta Hulin, Mike Stinson, Mary Louise Blanks, Lloyd Gray, Jerry Goforth, Kevin Cumberland, Keith Lillis, Joe Killens, James Young, Thad Quarles, Elizabeth Froshe, Robert Ward and Robert Turnage.
In front are Leah Stinson, Mattie Hudson, Lisa Hull, Summer Posey Hines, Eric Prince and David Vowell. Second row, from left, are Kelly McQuaig, Debra Stribling, Bernard and Loretta Hulin, Mike Stinson, Mary Louise Blanks, Lloyd Gray, Jerry Goforth, Kevin Cumberland, Keith Lillis, Joe Killens, James Young, Thad Quarles, Elizabeth Froshe, Robert Ward and Robert Turnage.
Ribbon was cut Tuesday morning opening the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Neshoba County, a program which mails a free, brand-new, age-appropriate book to enrolled children every month from birth until five years of age, creating a home library of up to 60 books and instilling a love of books and reading from an early age. 

Children must live in the 39350 zip code to register in Neshoba County.

Leah Stinson, the county’s coordinator for the library, said that as of Tuesday morning, 240 children had already enrolled.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a 60-volume set of books beginning with the children’s classic “The Little Engine That Could.”  The final book is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come.”

The Dollywood Foundation partners with communities willing to bring the books to the children of their area.

Neshoba County joins the United Way of East Mississippi’s three other Imagination Library affiliate programs in Lauderdale County, Kemper County and Quitman School District in Clarke County.  

Funding for this early childhood development program comes from The Phil Hardin Foundation, The North American Coal Corporation, Meridian Rotary Club, Quitman School District, and the newest partnering sponsor, Philadelphia’s Community Development Partnership. 

CDP  President David Vowell told those in attendance at the ribbon cutting that the Phil Hardin Foundation has agreed to fund 50 percent of the library in Neshoba County for the first three years. Philadelphia and Neshoba County businesses,  industries and other individuals have pledged the remaining funds, he said.

Officials from the Phil Hardin Foundation and United Way of East Mississippi joined community leaders here for the ribbon cutting at the depot.

Stinson told those in attendance that she was passionate about education, having taught at Neshoba Central for 26 years and Mississippi State University for 11 years.

“Ninety percent of children’s critical brain development occurs by age 5,” she said. “The vocabulary that you speak on a day-to-day basis, the vocabulary that I am using to speak to you right now, 65 percent of that vocabulary was learned by the age of 3.”

In promoting the library, Stinson said children who are read, sung and talked to from a young age develop bigger vocabularies, become better readers and are more likely to succeed in school.

“That’s what we want for our children,” she said. “We have great schools in our community. It’s our job in the first five years to prepare children for success. Therefore, this program makes me excited for our community.”

She said the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was designed to ensure the love of reading and learning in children by spending time with family and friends sharing these  books together. 

“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ from every child in Neshoba County that is or is going to be involved in this program. It is now a reality for our community.”

Sara Odom of the United Way of East Mississippi said prior to the ribbon cutting that the success of the Neshoba library rest solely in the hands of the community, noting that it was important to get as many children enrolled as possible.

She said while a two or three-month-old child can’t read, the books will spark their imagination with their colorful pictures.

“There is no doubt this program is going to succeed,” she said. 

To register a child for the program, visit www.unitedforunitedway.org, click on Imagination Library and find Neshoba County.   

For more details on Dolly Parton’s Imagination Program, call the United Way of East Mississippi offices at 601-693-2732 or the CDP at 601-656-1000.