Ravenswood Primary School launches Ravenswood Rainbow Readers project giving free books to children in Ipswich after inspiration from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 December 2016
She's strutted her stuff across the world's stages as the Queen of Country and now Dolly Parton has inspired an Ipswich school more than 3,000 miles from her home in Tennessee to carry on her work giving free books to youngsters.
The Ravenswood Rainbow Readers project was launched at Ravenswood Primary School on Friday, and gives six free books a year to youngsters in the IP3 community aged up to three, in a bid to get them into reading for pleasure.
But remarkably, the school was inspired to undertake the scheme after country star Dolly Parton, started a similar project called the Imagination Library, giving books to children around east Tennessee where she grew up.
“She funds a book a month in the area where she was born,” said Karen Mills, headteacher at Ravenswood Primary.
“I heard about this and thought how can we adopt that here to encourage them to read and come into school to really familiarise themselves?
“It really came about because we heard she did this.”
Each half-term children and parents can come into the school’s new library to pick up a book to keep, and can enjoy some quiet time reading in the revamped space.
But the scheme has been two years in the making while the school’s old library was overhauled into a brighter, more welcoming area.
“We had to have a library where we felt that would work and the library we had could be improved,” Mrs Mills said.
“It wasn’t very big, they couldn’t sit there and enjoy reading – it was more a place where they could come and get out books.”
And having seen the fruits of her labours on Friday, Mrs Mills hailed the experience as a special moment for the school.
She added: “Everybody here loves reading – the staff absolutely love reading and want to encourage that for everyone.
“I cannot express the feeling of seeing something that I have wanted to see for a long while in our school.”
Ravenswood already works a lot alongside its pupils to encourage their reading, which staff have noted has an impact on children’s vocabulary.
“It’s not just reading but access to reading material as well,” Mrs Mills said. “I love technology and reading off a screen is lovely, but there is something special about reading a book and turning the pages.
“And for children understanding that, particularly with fiction, you can learn so much and you notice that as they have greater access to books their vocabulary increases.
“We are absolutely on a mission to expand the vocabulary of our children so they can engage with the world with much more confidence.”