Rhea County Imagination Library receives new funding

(L-R): Judi Davis, GBBF, Claire Jones, GBBF, Rhonda Berger, Linda Abel, Jamie Ridley and Jill Rovinelli (submitted)


Dayton, Tenn. – (January 29, 2018) – Delta Dental of Tennessee is partnering with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) to award 26 Bigger Smiles grants to support the enrollment growth of Imagination Library programs in selected Tennessee counties, including Rhea County. Currently, 64% of the county’s total age-eligible population—more than 1,274 preschoolers—are enrolled in Rhea County Imagination Library program. Delta Dental awarded $1,200 to Rhea County.

In partnership with GBBF, Rhea County Imagination Library gives all children ages birth to five in Rhea County the opportunity to receive one high-quality, age-appropriate book each month in the mail. Managed by local volunteers dedicated to early literacy, Rhea County Imagination Library has mailed 133,329 books since 2004.

“The Rhea County Imagination Library is increasing enrollment and our team of volunteers is so thankful Rhea County’s portion of the funds provided by Delta Dental will help with the cost of providing books to children,”, Jamie Ridley, RCIL volunteer.

All Tennessee children ages birth to five have access to the Imagination Library because of a unique, three-way partnership between GBBF, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the local affiliate program in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Through an annual state grant approved by the Tennessee General Assembly and financial support from foundations and corporate sponsors, GBBF funds one-half of the cost of books and mailing for all 95 Imagination Library affiliates in Tennessee.

“We are extremely grateful to Delta Dental of Tennessee for their continued support of early childhood literacy and Tennessee’s Imagination Library,” said Theresa Carl, president, GBBF. “Our goal is for all families in Tennessee to experience the joy of reading with children. Bigger Smiles grants allow us to send more books to a continuously growing number of children across the state, giving them exposure to books as early in life as possible – the key to developing strong early literacy skills before kindergarten.”

Delta Dental of Tennessee has invested in Tennessee’s Imagination Library and GBBF since the statewide program began in 2004. The Bigger Smiles grant will help Rhea County Imagination Library sustain growing book costs due to high-volume enrollment.

“Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation has a proven track record of making an impact on the literacy level of young Tennesseans and helping them be ready for school by kindergarten as well as helping them excel in school,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, President, Delta Dental of Tennessee and board member for the Governor’s Book from Birth Foundation. “We know that children across the state have a stronger foundation thanks to the work of GBBF, and this foundation will also help them to be better, stronger, and even healthier students. We are proud to support the Imagination Library in Rhea County.”

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. Tennessee studies found that Imagination Library participants outperformed non-participants on kindergarten literacy assessments and continued this trend even into second and third grades. Further, higher attendance rates and lower suspension rates were indicated for participating students.

With over 1,274 books now being mailed to enrolled children in Rhea County, the monthly shared cost allocated to Rhea County Imagination Library exceeds $1,298.46. Here’s how you can help Rhea County Imagination Library continue to serve more children.


Delta Dental of Tennessee

Good oral health is essential to a healthy life and Delta Dental of Tennessee makes taking care of your smile easy with access to care, comprehensive benefits, exceptional service, and superior value. To best serve our mission and create more smiles, we created the Smile180 Foundation which supports Tennessee’s dental colleges, children’s hospitals, free and reduced cost community dental clinics, and other like-minded charities. Delta Dental is the largest independent dental benefits provider in the state with more than 2,000 employer groups representing more than 1.1 million Tennesseans. To unleash your smile power, choose Delta Dental. Visit www.DeltaDentalTN.com.


The Imagination Library was established in 1996 by Dolly Parton as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, TN. The program mails one new, age-appropriate, high-quality book each month to registered children, from birth until age five. An annual gift of approximately $25 provides 12 books for one child per year. With vital financial support from the Tennessee General Assembly, foundations, individuals, and corporate sponsors, GBBF funds half the cost of books for the Imagination Library affiliates in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. For information on how to support your local Imagination Library program or enroll a child, visit www.GovernorsFoundation.org or call toll-free, 1-877-99-BOOKS.

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