Tennessee First Lady Reads to Children at First Steps, Inc.

September 24, 2013

NASHVILLE, TENN. – In honor of Imagination Library Week, Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam read to children Tuesday at First Steps, Inc., a United Way of Metropolitan Nashville Read to Succeed site. She was joined by Vicki Smith, senior manager, Corporate Social Responsibility at Nissan North America, a major program sponsor of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF).

Since the inception of the GBBF in 2005, Nissan has provided grants totaling more than $800,000 to the non-profit foundation. The donated funds are used to provide free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to preschool children enrolled in the Imagination Library in counties where Nissan has a strong corporate presence (Davidson, Franklin, Rutherford and Williamson counties). The generous contributions are part of Nissan's commitment to investing in communities where its employees live and work.

"Nissan is an integral partner for the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation," said Tennessee First Lady Haslam. "Their investment and commitment to support education plays a critical role in making sure preschool children in the Tennessee Imagination Library program receive free, high-quality and age-appropriate books to better prepare them to start school and have a successful academic future.”

“Nissan is committed to supporting education, beginning with the youngest learners,” said Nissan Senior Manager Vicki Smith. “We are proud to support the Imagination Library, which encourages children to be excited about reading and builds skills that will serve them well throughout their school years and beyond.”

Every year during Imagination Library Week, local Imagination Library affiliates in all 95 counties hold events to bring awareness to the Imagination Library program and try to boost enrollment across the state. This year the program celebrates the more than 200,000 Tennessee children, under the age of 5, who currently receive free, high-quality, age-appropriate books delivered to their homes each month, and the fact that more than 18.5 million books have been delivered to children across the state since 2004.

Currently, only 46% of Tennessee third graders are reading on grade level. Children entering kindergarten with good basic literacy skills are three to four times more likely to graduate high school. A recent study conducted by the Urban Child Institute showed that programs like the Tennessee Imagination Library lead to early childhood language development, school readiness, grade progression, on-time graduation and college attendance.

“We know that putting books in the hands of Tennessee's preschool children positively impacts their lives," said GBBF President Theresa Carl. "The Imagination Library gives each child enrolled at birth a library of 60 books by the time they enter kindergarten. The books bolster a love of reading, an eagerness to read with caregivers and an increased vocabulary. We are grateful to Nissan for investing in the future of our children, our state and – ultimately – our world.”

To see a list of Imagination Library events across the state, visit www.governorsfoundation.org. The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation encourages all Tennesseans to enroll their children and support their county’s Imagination Library so that all children can receive free books.  Donations to your county’s Imagination Libraries can also be made at www.governorsfoundation.org.

All of Tennessee’s 407,000 children under age five have access to the Imagination Library, and an Imagination Library program affiliate exists in all 95 counties in the state. Begun by Dolly Parton in 1996 as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn., the Imagination Library mails one new, high-quality, age-appropriate book every month to registered children, from birth until age five – at no cost to families and regardless of income. Over 18 million books have been delivered since the GBBF’s inception in October 2004. Approximately $24 annually (or $2 per book) provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to one child. With funding support from the Tennessee General Assembly, various foundations, individual donors and a host of private corporate sponsors, the GBBF matches ($12 per book, per child) all funds raised by each of Tennessee’s Imagination Library program affiliates – a dynamic public-private partnership unlike any other in the U.S.

Tennessee is the only state to have the Imagination Library program in every one of its counties.

An increasing amount of research points to the universally positive impact of having books in the home. Imagination Library participants from both low-income and middle-income households arrive to kindergarten more prepared to learn than non-participants. A 2010 study indicated that simply having more books around the house correlates to a child’s completing more years of formal education. In January of this year, a team of researchers concluded that reading to a child in an interactive style can raise the child’s IQ by as much as six points.

About Nissan North America

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and has been recognized as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at www.NissanUSA.com and www.InfinitiUSA.com, or visit the Americas media sites http://www.NissanNews.com and www.InfinitiNews.com.

About the GBBF

The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, in partnership with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, puts free, high-quality, age-appropriate books in the hands of registered Tennessee preschoolers statewide. Its mission is to support the ongoing, statewide operation of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library – assisting all Tennessee preschool children by developing their vocabularies, boosting their school readiness, and fostering a love of learning and reading – and ensure that free, high quality, age-appropriate books are mailed once a month directly to these children’s homes, from birth until age five. To learn more about supporting local Imagination Library programs, or for information about how to enroll a child, visit www.GovernorsFoundation.org, or call toll-free at 1-877-99-BOOKS.