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Harvest Youth Board awards Smart Beginnings $2,500 for youth literacy

LEFT TO RIGHT: Jacob Tisdale, Andrew Chitwood, Jarrett Pearson, Philip Wenkstern, Sophia Esdaile, Melanie McLarty, Elli McGovern, Zariah Scales, Anne Catherine and Taylor Manns

MARTINSVILLE – Smart Beginnings Martinsville Henry received a $2,500 grant from the Harvest Youth Board to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Martinsville-Henry County, which serves approximately 1,700 children.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, serving area children from birth to 5 years old, provides them with a free, age- and developmentally-appropriate book mailed monthly to their residence.

The Harvest Youth Board previously supported this program with a grant in 2018 and were thrilled about the outcomes.

At a cost of $27 per year for each child, they will receive 60 books before graduating from the program if enrolled from birth.

Melanie McLarty, director of Smart Beginnings, thanks the youth board for their dedication to literacy.

“Dolly Parton, the founder of the Imagination Library, believes that if you can read, you can do anything, dream anything, and be anything,” she said. “Thank you, Harvest Youth Board, for helping us to ensure all children in our community have a home full of books to engage them in the most fundamental skill necessary to succeed in life – reading!"

Zariah Scales, secretary of the youth board, said she’s glad they could support this program that shows meaningful results in the community.

“I am glad that we were able to fund this grant again especially because it showed results,” she said. “It is definitely making a difference in Martinsville and Henry County, and I cannot wait to see this program continue to help the kids, and parents, in our community.”

According to the grant application, 19 percent of kindergartners in Henry County and 14 percent in Martinsville require literacy interventions.

In Henry County, 27.9 percent of third-graders and 41.5 percent in Martinsville are not reading on grade level.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is an important tool that improves kindergarten readiness and mitigates literacy interventions required by the school systems, the grant application stated.

Philip Wenkstern, executive director of the United Way of Henry County & Martinsville, said this program is a “phenomenal tool that helps foster a love of reading at an early age and helps nurture a skill that will benefit children for their entire lives. We truly appreciate the Harvest Youth Board’s recognition of the impact the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has on the development of a child and their willingness to support the program.”

The Harvest Youth Board considers grant proposals year-round for projects and programs that benefit youth in Martinsville-Henry County.

To find out more, visit or call 276-632-3329.

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