Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger participated in a panel discussion at a recent conference in Louisville.

Wayne County Schools were amongst schools in Kentucky to take advantage of the Imagination Library in the early stages. The local results of that program have revealed gains in literacy, while also helping bring about state contributions.

Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger said, “We currently have 608 children enrolled. This is not our biggest enrollment; however, to date we have had 1,120 students ‘graduate’ the program.  We are always taking donations through our Wayne County Education Foundation to continue to ensure each child that does enroll is adequately funded to receive books until they turn five-years-old and graduate the program.”

Local groups like the Wayne County Extension Service and the fall Scarecrow Trail project have generously supported this effort, along with others. The Public Library also furnishes the promotional brochure that families can use to sign up for the program.

Ballinger has been an active collaborative voice to try and improve community literacy outcomes. Walker Early Learning Center’s results were used in lobbying efforts to support early literacy across the state. The Kentucky legislature committed to an $800,000 investment for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. To expand the program, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and The Collaborative Center for Literacy (CCLD) have worked together to support the expansion effort. There is a great opportunity to improve outcomes, by working together.

“The 50% / 50% match that the state has provided along with the local contributions from our local business, community partners, and grants will guarantee that every child who is eligible (birth to age five) will have access to these amazing books for free. We conducted an internal study in our school.  Students who received DPIL books scored an average of five points greater on the Brigance assessment for Kindergarten Readiness verses students who were not enrolled in DPIL. That data was used to help promote the state funding,” explained Ballinger.

Most recently, Ballinger had the honor of sharing this study information by serving on a panel with the participants at the Early Childhood Institute conference during the Growing Early Literacy Roundtable in Louisville. The session was facilitated by Dr. Felicia Cumings-Smith – President, National Center for Families Learning, Nora Briggs – Executive Director – Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Keith Lyons – The Collaborative Center for Literacy, Coordinator, and Amy Olson – Youth Services Consultant for Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives In Kentucky.

Success to date includes considering that there has been a 162% increase in the number of Regional Collaboratives investing in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in 2021 and over 59% of Kentucky’s public libraries are engaged in Regional Collaboratives. This session will feature experts in the field with a united goal of supporting language and literacy development in early childhood. Regional Collaboratives will walk away with strategies to expand and strengthen unified community partnerships that make a greater impact for their community and state after hearing from organizations that are already successfully combining efforts to deliver strong outcomes, like Wayne County Schools.

Angela Ballinger during a panel discussion at the Early Childhood Institute

Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger participated in a panel discussion at a recent conference in Louisville. The Let’s Learn Kentucky campaign was launched there and is currently being promoted locally. Part of the local literacy campaign includes Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that has been successful in Wayne County.