Every two years it happens. Hundreds of people from Imagination Libraries all over the world converge on Dolly Parton’s hometown of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for four days of workshops, presentations, sharing, and learning.
Parton calls it Homecomin’ 2011, and this year Best Beginnings sent nine Alaskans to Pigeon Forge: Shannon Clouse for the Koliganek Imagination Library, Linda and Katie Conover from Mat-Su, Robyn Chaney from Dillingham, Joy Lyon from Juneau, Sandy Solenberger of Barrow (accompanied by her daughter, Diana), Barbara Brown of Best Beginnings, and Russ and Nancy Wagner from Fairbanks – who caught some of the hoopla on video.
The Alaskans returned from Pigeon Forge with new ideas, practical tricks of the trade, and revelations.
Joy Lyon of Juneau learned a great hint: bake a cake or cookies for the post office workers since their support is essential to the program. Robyn Chaney of Dillingham was struck by research showing that the longer a child participates in Imagination Library, the more likely it is his parents will read to him every day.
Mat-Su’s Linda Conover came away with an even stronger sense of mission. As one speaker put it, we don’t just give away free books, “We inspire children to read so they can be productive members of society.”
Sandy Solenberger of Barrow was inspired by the perseverance of Karen Davis of Manitoba, Canada. Davis talked about the challenges of replicating Imagination Library in very small, rural communities.
“She could talk to 100 people, have 20 express enough interest to warrant mailing them information, hear back from 5, and find one who will actively champion it in the community. The lesson: keep trying!” Solenberger said.
Best Beginnings has emerged as a star in the Imagination Library world because of Alaska’s explosive growth statewide and our unique way of setting up new Imagination Libraries. Best Beginnings’ Brown shared the iMovie DVD she’d created explaining how to fill out Dollywood paperwork, and now the Dollywood Foundation has borrowed it to make things easier nationwide.
During the conference, Alaska enrollments surpassed the 14,000 mark … to the cheers of the international Imagination Library crowd.