DHS Continues on the Drive to 55 by Encouraging Child Literacy Through a Partnership with Parents and the Imagination Library

Tuesday, February 09, 2016 | 01:35pm

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) has enrolled more than 300 children receiving department administered child care assistance in the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation’s Imagination Library. This new initiative started in January 2016 and is part of an ongoing effort to support the Governor’s Drive to 55.

By 2025, 55 percent of the jobs available in Tennessee will require a postsecondary credential, and currently only 33 percent of Tennesseans qualify. Gov. Bill Haslam launched his Drive to 55 two years ago to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate.

The Department of Human Services is partnering with parents by providing them with information about the program and assisting them in enrolling their child or children in the Imagination Library. The partnership aligns with DHS’ two generation approach to creating cycles of success. It also serves to compliment the Tennessee Department of Education’s work in early literacy and First Lady Crissy Haslam’s statewide READ20 campaign. The two-generation approach has a specific focus on partnering with parents and children together to support them in realizing a pathway toward self-sufficiency and a better quality of life.

“Introducing books to children beginning at birth is one of the most impactful ways to prepare them for Kindergarten,” First Lady Haslam said. “I appreciate the Department of Human Services’ efforts to encourage more families to read together and make education a priority. Collaborative partnerships that support early literacy can help children be more successful in school and in life.”

The Governors Books from Birth Foundation in tandem with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is available to all children from birth to 5 years old living in Tennessee. Once children are enrolled in the program, a new book is mailed to the child every month until he or she turns five. The books are provided to children at no cost. More than 240,000 Tennessee children are currently receiving books. The program allows additional opportunities for parents to read to their children and engage in learning opportunities. Each book is age appropriate and includes reading comprehension activities and suggestions.

“We are committed to supporting parents and their children in realizing educational success by doing our part to assist with building a foundation for children to be proficient in reading by the third grade.  This is a game changer for Tennessee families,” said DHS Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter. “I also want to thank our DHS staff for their efforts to support this great initiative.”

Research has shown that children who participate in the Imagination Library have significantly higher reading readiness, improving cognitive skills, and supporting preschool education. One Tennessee study states “Imagination Library participants outperformed non-participants on Kindergarten Literacy assessments and continued this trend even into second and third grades.

"The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation's mission is to increase enrollment in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library statewide, so that all Tennessee's preschoolers have exposure to these high-quality, age-appropriate books prior to entering kindergarten. We deeply appreciate the Department of Human Services' partnership with us to enroll young children as a great example of how aligning resources creates major impact,” said Theresa Carl, President of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.

Recently, DHS partnered with Families First parents to register over 700 high school seniors for the Tennessee Promise, a scholarship which will provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee. The department will continue to identify and implement two generation opportunities and partnerships to support Tennessee which will build a stronger Tennessee.

If you are interested in adding your strength to the department's efforts in creating transformational pathways toward success through a two-generation strategy, please contact DHS at 2GenConsortium.DHS@tn.gov.  


Contact:  Devin Stone
Office:  615-313-5786