Imagination Ashe to commemorate 10th anniversary

Hannah Myers | Jefferson Post President of the Board of Directors for Imagination Ashe Kathy Chefas discussed plans for the Ashe County Library steps with commissioners.

WEST JEFFERSON —Imagination Ashe is approaching their 10th anniversary and the program has big plans to commemorate their accomplishments.

Imagination Ashe is an affiliate of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that was founded by Dolly Parton in 1996 in Sevier County, Tennessee.

The program sends a book by mail once a month to children up to five-years-old.

The Imagination Library has since expanded into 1,600 local communities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia and supplies 750,000 children with books each month.

Imagination Ashe officially kicked off in the summer of 2006 at Ashe Park and by Jan. 2007, 225 books arrived in the mailboxes of children throughout the county.

According to the 2010 census, there were approximately 1,500 preschoolers in Ashe County. President of the Board of Directors for Imagination Ashe Kathy Chefas said their program is reaching 725 of them.

Chefas came before the Board of Commissioners during their regular meeting on Monday, June 15 to request approval to decorate the steps located on Backstreet in West Jefferson that lead up to the Ashe County Library.

According to Chefas, the project would commemorate the 10th anniversary of the program that strives to lower the illiteracy rate in Ashe County which is currently at 14 percent.

“We want our children to be able to read and read well,” Chefas said.

Chefas, who has been involved with the program for four years, has already received the approval of the Town of West Jefferson but also needed the commissioner’s approval before moving forward with the project.

According to Chefas, the project is expected to be completed by next August and the changes to the steps will be subtle and simple.

“We want to do something really permanent, lovely and lasting that won’t take maintenance,” Chefas said.

Chefas said the program plans to place three sculptures by the steps to symbolize a child climbing the steps to literacy.

“Building literacy one step at a time is the idea for the step project,” Chefas said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $25,000 with $15,000 for the sculptures and $10,000 to create an endowment program.

Chefas said fundraising from individuals, businesses and organizations will help fund the project.

Imagination Ashe is currently working with Ashe County Schools to test the effectiveness of the program.

According to Chefas, studies show the Imagination Library drastically improves early childhood literacy for children.

“I think we are going to see in 20 years that we will have graduated some kids that might not ever have graduated high school,” Chefas said. “That’s our hope.”

Commissioner Jeff Rose commended the program for its success and described his own sons experience with the program.

“My son, he was actually involved in that program and i’m happy to say he’s actually far exceeded the level that he has been required,” Rose said.

According to Chefas, if a child joins the program at birth, they will have 60 books by the time they are five-years-old.

“In some of the areas of Ashe County where they don’t have a phone book for printed material in their house, the fact that these books are coming once a month is remarkable,” Chefas said.

The board voted 4-1 to approve Chefas’ request. Commissioner Larry Rhodes opposed.

“I’m just thinking what we could do with $15,000 with books,” Rhodes said.

“I just feel like we’ve survived for ten years, and I’d like to honor that and so that’s the reason for this project,” Chefas said.

Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.

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