Imagine – books for every child!

October 27, 2019

Did you know that the Lewes Public Library is the busiest library in Sussex County? One reason is because Jennifer Noonan, the children’s librarian and program coordinator, has brought a program called Imagination Library to our community, thereby enriching the lives of countless families.

When Noonan first moved to Lewes from Knoxville, Tenn., she was familiar with Imagination Library and its founder, Dolly Parton. Years later, after she became employed by the Lewes library, she was excited to launch the program.

DPIL began in 1995, when Dolly Parton decided to give back to her community in Sevier County, Tenn. Just five years later, national replication of this program began. In 2006, Canada, the UK, Australia and Ireland climbed aboard. In September 2018, the Lewes Public Library became a champion for the Cape district.

Imagination Library provides the books, manages the secure central database for the book order system, and coordinates book selections and purchasing. The organization incurs the cost of the program’s administrative expenses and coordinate monthly mailings.

Currently, 552 children are enrolled in the Lewes library program, and 4,128 books were delivered to homes as of October 2019. LPL’s cost for each book is $2.10, or $25 a year per child. For a total of $125, books are mailed to each child from year one until kindergarten. Imagine – each child will have received a total of 60 books by the time they leave kindergarten!

Stephanie DeWitt retired in 2018 after 30 years as a special education teacher for the Cape district and knew she wanted to continue volunteer work. DeWitt said, “The books are curated by educators and librarians. On the inside flap of all of the books is a list of ways the parents can interact and ask questions of their child before, during and after reading the book. More importantly, there is documented research on its effectiveness with regard to increasing school readiness and improved reading scores. DPIL does not discriminate among its participants.”

Many community organizations support this endeavor, including Sussex County Department of Libraries, Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, Schell Family Foundation, American Association of University Women Delaware, Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary, Cape Henlopen School District, and the Mildred H. and Roy A. Thompson Fund.

Trudy Thompson manages her deceased parents’ fund. “I chose to support the DPIL at Lewes library because my mom loved to support libraries. I can't think of anything better for young kids than making sure they have really good books in their homes,” she said. 

Last year, $8,780.27 was spent to run the program, but more children have since joined. In the Cape district, an estimated $16,695 is needed for September 2019 to August, 2020.

Noonan said, “Parents tell me about the joy on their children’s faces when they race to the mailbox every month to find a new book wrapped in cellophane with their name on it! I really hope the Imagination Library will spread beyond Cape Henlopen School District into Sussex County and throughout the State of Delaware. The Dollywood Foundation has made it as easy as possible to replicate it. They give those who want to be local champions of the program a tremendous amount of support.”

Thompson shares Noonan’s hopes. “Jennifer and I talked about the possibility of getting the other parts of Sussex County involved with the Imagination Library, such as the Indian River School District and the Laurel School District, but I know such things move slowly,” she said.

Register at Paper registration forms are available at the library. If you’d like to support the Imagination Library, you can make a donation to the Lewes Public Library and designate your contribution to support DPIL.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter