Roald Dahl, author of such children's classics as "Matilda" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is quoted as saying, "If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books."
And for local youth, there's no better place to get started on that journey than the Pulaski County Public Library.
This Tuesday, October 22, the seventh-annual Sit & Read Auction will be held at 6 p.m. at the Pulaski County Public Library in the community room. It's a great time to pick up something new and unique for yourself or for someone else as a holiday gift, and to help support one of the most worthy causes of all: instilling a love of reading in children.
"The event is our biggest fundraising event of the year," said Sarah Hamilton, president of Pulaski County Imagination Library. "We celebrate our donors as well as spotlight local artists in our community. All proceeds go directly to enrolling Pulaski County children ages birth to five in Imagination Library services."
Imagination Library is a non-profit program that mails books to children both in the United States and internationally from the time they're born until age 5. The books are free to the families of those children. It's all the brainchild of beloved country music artist Dolly Parton, who started Imagination Library in 1995 in her home turf, Sevier County, Tenn.
"(Parton's) father, who could not read or write, motivated her to start a program dedicated to sending free books to children so that they might have access to words, books, and literacy building opportunities," said Hamilton. "The program now operates worldwide via an affiliate structure whereby communities can choose to start a program so long as they supply the funds and volunteers to make it happen."
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has delivered 126,474,278 books since its beginning in 1995 and is now the largest non-governmental children's literacy program in the world. Its local arm, Pulaski County Imagination Library, began in 2013, and delivers approximately 1,000 books each month to Pulaski County children.
"Since 2013, we've delivered 70,694 free books in our county," said Hamilton. "We support early literacy and kindergarten readiness and partner with Pulaski County Public Library to achieve our goals. We are a 501(c)(3) and maintain a volunteer group of board members whose main focus in fundraising to keep the program operating successfully."
According to Hamilton, the rate of children ready for kindergarten upon entering it in 2019 was 45.6 percent. Statewide kindergarten readiness rate is 51.1 percent. Pulaski County Imagination Library directly affects the kindergarten readiness rate in our county and state by providing free and direct access to books.
"It's important that children get access to books early and often," she said. "Seeing letters form words on a page, learning how a book's pages turn from left to right, the introduction of new situations and places, the interaction with stories and characters, and the chance to read a book aloud with a caring adult - these are the intangible benefits of the program that lead to a tangible increase in the kindergarten readiness rate of our youngest citizens.
"If a child is enrolled in Imagination Library beginning at birth and stays in the program until age 5, they will have a personal library of 60 books they can read over and over and take into kindergarten and beyond," added Hamilton.
The event Tuesday will feature both a live and silent auction, as well as light refreshments, musical entertainment and a children's play area. In all, there are 28 pieces up to auction, one-of-a-kind pieces of art and craftsmanship personally made and donated by members of the community.
The live auction includes hand-painted wooden furniture pieces for children such as step stools, bookshelves, wall shelves, growth charts, Adirondack chairs & rockers, and storage crates. New this year are front porch signs up for auction.
The silent auction includes wooden crates filled with children's items and organized by theme, including Fall Fun, Holiday Fun, Summer Fun, Winter Fun, ages birth-2 and ages 3-5.
"This year, we're also offering something new," said Hamilton. "We've begun a fundraising project in which we plan to take community places near and dear to us in Somerset and turn them into Christmas ornaments. This will be an ongoing series in which we introduce a new ornament every year. We're launching the project at the auction, offering for the first time to the public, a handcrafted fine silver pewter Christmas ornament commemorating Pulaski County Public Library."
The cost is $20 per ornament, with all proceeds going directly to enrolling children in Pulaski County Imagination Library. Those interested in the ornament can purchase one at the Sit & Read Auction on Tuesday.
The Pulaski County Public Library, is a strategic partner of Pulaski County Imagination Library. From telling their patrons about our services to enrolling children in the program database to placing the monthly order for books, library staff plays a key role in the success of Pulaski County Imagination Library, noted Hamilton. Three library staff members sit on the local Imagination Library's board including director Charlotte Keeney, children's librarian Presley Adams, and bookkeeper Nikki Vaught, and both entities work toward the same goal of providing access to books for those who might not always be able to afford it otherwise.
"We are currently only serving 30 percent of eligible children in our county. We're ready to send more books, but we need the help of our community to spread the word and raise funds," said Hamilton. "The Sit & Read Auction ... is one way people can make a difference -- attend, bid, support, and grow our impact."
To see pictures of the auction items, visit the Pulaski County Imagination Library Facebook page.
For Hamilton, there are a lot of great things about being involved in Pulaski County Imagination Library -- and they all have to do with the impact the program has on children in this community.
"The really best things: Seeing a child's face light up when they get a book delivered especially to them in the mailbox," she said, "hearing from caregivers about the program's impact on their child. Hearing from USPS drivers how much they enjoy delivering the books."