Delta Dental Awards Grants to Imagination Library Programs & Challenges TN Communities

January 17, 2019

Teaching Our Children to Read:
Delta Dental's New Year Challenge to TN Communities

Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) partnered with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) to award the third annual “Bigger Smiles” grants to Imagination Library programs in select Tennessee counties. Delta Dental has supported GBBF, in partnership with Tennessee’s Imagination Library (IL), since its inception in 2004, recognizing the statewide program’s early literacy impact on health, education and workforce development. 

With vital financial support from the Tennessee General Assembly, foundations, and corporate sponsors, GBBF funds half of the cost of IL books for enrolled children in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Each local county affiliate promotes the program in its community and raises funds for the other half of the cost of books and mailing for enrolled children in their county.
 

“We know the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation positively impacts the literacy level of young Tennesseans and we proudly support their efforts across the state with Bigger Smiles Grants.”

-Dr. Phil Wenk, President and CEO, Delta Dental and board member for Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation
 

Delta Dental has invested more than $750,000 in GBBF’s statewide IL program, which has mailed over 35 million books to Tennessee children since 2004. Through “Bigger Smiles Grants,” Delta Dental provides local IL affiliates with funds to help cover the cost of books and mailing for enrolled children in their county.

As part of this year's Bigger Smiles grants, Delta Dental president and CEO Dr. Phil Wenk challenges Tennessee communities to invest into their local Imagination Library program and to continue enrolling all age-eligible children. In an op-ed piece, Dr. Phil Wenk explained this New Year challenge to Tennessee counties and families:
 

"...I am asking all Tennessee families to take a moment and enroll your children or any child you know in this important free program. I am asking all local companies to invest in their local program that changes the lives of Tennessee families. Individuals or companies, please consider a small donation to celebrate 2019 and our commitment to serve the children of Tennessee."
 

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Managed by local volunteers, these local Imagination Library programs give all children, from birth to age five in each county, the opportunity to receive one high-quality, age-appropriate book each month in the mail—at no cost to families.

Research shows that a child’s brain grows to 80 percent by age three and builds 700 connections per second, creating a critically important window of opportunity for language development. Giving children early access to books and reading significantly improves vocabulary, cognitive skills and supports the foundation for early literacy skills from birth.

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 of high school. Tennessee studies show that IL participants outperform non-participants on academic assessments in kindergarten through
early grades. Further, these students are more likely to regularly attend school and are less likely to be suspended.

Bigger Smiles Grant Awardees

Fentress County

Seventy percent of the county’s total eligible population, 729 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Carol Watson, Fentress County Imagination Library Coordinator, at cw1156@yahoo.com or (931) 879-8040. 

Hardeman County

Fifty-seven percent of the county’s total eligible population, 861 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Monroe Woods, Hardeman County Imagination Library Coordinator, at montenn@aol.com or 731-376-0264.

Hawkins County

Seventy-four percent of the county’s total eligible population, 2,348 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Charlotte Britton, Hawkins County Imagination Library Coordinator, at brittonc@charter.net or (423) 272-7237.

Lincoln County

Sixty-one percent of the county’s total eligible population, 1,321 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Wanda Southerland, Lincoln County Imagination Library Coordinator, at wms627@aol.com or (615) 390-6935.

Madison County

Sixty-eight percent of the county’s total eligible population, 4,527 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Lori Smith, Madison County Imagination Library Coordinator, at lps0623@yahoo.com or (731) 217-3357.

Sullivan County

Eighty-two percent of the county’s total eligible population, 6,767 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Sandra Little, Sullivan County Imagination Library Coordinator, at (423) 239-1100.

Unicoi County

Eighty-nine percent of the county’s total eligible population, 832 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly. To volunteer or get involved, contact Denise Rose, Unicoi County Imagination Library Coordinator, at larryrosettk@yahoo.com or (423) 743-5278.

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Coffee County

More than 3,509 children in Coffee County are eligible to receive age-appropriate books each month at no cost, and enrollment has recently increased with nearly 2,955 books being mailed each month. Each book costs $1.07 to send to a child (matched by GBBF), and we need your help at the local level to continue funding the $2,900 required by Coffee County to mail these books each month and grow the program. Since inception, the Coffee County Imagination Library has mailed more than 319,209 books to local children.

Greene County

More than 3,672 children in Greene County are eligible to receive age-appropriate books each month at no cost, and enrollment has recently increased with nearly 3,304 books being mailed each month. Each book costs $1.07 to send to a child (matched by GBBF), and we need your help at the local level to continue funding the $3,000 required by Greene County to mail these books each month and grow the program. Since inception, the Greene County Imagination Library has mailed more than 430,808 books to local children.

Grundy County

More than 801 children in Grundy County are eligible to receive age-appropriate books each month at no cost, and enrollment has recently increased with nearly 624 books being mailed each month. Each book costs $1.07 to send to a child (matched by GBBF), and we need your help at the local level to continue funding the $630 required by Grundy County to mail these books each month and grow the program. Since inception, the Grundy County Imagination Library has mailed more than 72,916 books to local children.

Montgomery County

More than 15,329 children in Montgomery County are eligible to receive age-appropriate books each month at no cost, and enrollment has recently increased with nearly 9,301 books being mailed each month. Each book costs $1.07 to send to a child (matched by GBBF), and we need your help at the local level to continue funding the $9,300 required by Montgomery County to mail these books each month and grow the program. Since inception, the Montgomery County Imagination Library has mailed more than 901,018 books to local children.

Putnam County

More than 4,332 children in Putnam County are eligible to receive age-appropriate books each month at no cost, and enrollment has recently increased with nearly 3,134 books being mailed each month. Each book costs $1.07 to send to a child (matched by GBBF), and we need your help at the local level to continue funding the $3,100 required by Putnam County to mail these books each month and grow the program. Since inception, the Putnam County Imagination Library has mailed more than 394,214 books to local children.

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Dickson County

Since inception, the Dickson County Imagination Library has mailed more than 241,126 books to local children. More than 3,288 children in Dickson County are eligible today for free age-appropriate books each month. Yet currently 1,856 books are being mailed each month. This represents only 56.45 percent of the age-eligible children in Dickson County. Our goal is for all families in Dickson County to receive books in the mail and experience the joy of reading with children.

Lauderdale County

Since inception, the Lauderdale County Imagination Library has mailed more than 115,487 books to local children. More than 1,865 children in Lauderdale County are eligible today for free age-appropriate books each month. Yet currently 1,021 books are being mailed each month. This represents only 54.75 percent of the age-eligible children in Lauderdale County. Our goal is for all families in Lauderdale County to receive books in the mail and experience the joy of reading with children.