Program providing books to youth

ELKINS – Reading to youngsters helps them become life-long learners, and with that thought in mind, the Davis Medical Center Auxiliary is partnering with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and the state Department of Education and the Arts to provide books to families with young children,

The program will provide new, age-appropriate books to infants born after Jan. 1, 2014, who live in Randolph and Tucker counties. Books will be sent monthly until the children reach their fifth birthday.

At the program kick-off Friday, pre-school children from Youth Health gathered to listen to “The Little Engine Who Could,” by Watty Piper, read by Phil Smith and Missy Armentrout McCollam of the Old Brick Playhouse.

Each child at the kick-off received a copy of the book.

Valerie Bright, director of volunteer services at Davis Medical Center, said she feels privileged to be part of the program kick-off. She said connecting to families early is a key to the program’s success.

“We were looking for a way to reach out into the community,” Bright said. “And we are looking for a way to impact wellness in our area, and literacy is a big part of that. This is an opportunity to help create a win-win situation.”

Bright said the program is going to affect a lot of people, adding, “It’s great that it is starting here.”

Cameron Edward Huffman, the first baby born in 2014 at Davis Medical Center, was the first child registered in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Elkins, and he and his family attended Friday’s kick-off.

“Cameron will be awarded a special gift from the Imagination Library,” Bright said. “His parents will be able to choose this gift from an Imagination Library catalog.”

Four members of the Davis Medical Center Auxiliary have received training, and families will be registered through the Birthing Center.

“The books change, so if a family has a baby one year, the books any other children receive will be different,” Bright said. “The West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts are the ones who actually mail the books to the children’s homes.”

Bright said the program is good not only for the child, but also for the whole family. “It’s going to encourage parents to spend more time bonding with their children and brothers and sisters. A child who is read to in the first two years of their life will be a better reader when they enter school.”

Bright said the Tucker County Rotary is co-sponsoring the program in that county.

“We are looking for other sponsors to help this program,” Bright said. “Sponsorship of $25 provides books every month for a year for one child.”

Bright said there are about 380 children born at Davis Medical Center each year.

“It is our hope that community members, groups and businesses will help provide sponsorship,” she said.

Davis Medical Center Auxiliary President Sharon Chenoweth said the group considers the project a much-needed addition for the community.

“It was brought to our attention last year, and we looked into starting the project,” Chenoweth said. “We want kids to get the right start in life and get parents involved with their children – we think it is a great cause.”

Davis Medical Center Pediatrician Amanda Pennington said, “This program is wonderful. We, as pediatricians, encourage reading to your children at an early age. I think this is a great opportunity, and appreciate that Dolly Parton has offered this program across our country.”

Pennington said it will be a gift and a treasure to receive a new book in the mail each month and create excitement for the families.

“Kids will ask what is coming next and anticipate the next book that is coming,” Pennington said. “The importance of reading to children begins at birth. Reading aloud to children at an early age will allows them to develop brain pathways and develop language skills. It helps them prepare for school, encourage imagination and develop a life-long love of reading.”

Davis Health System CEO Mark Doak said he is pleased with the


“I have to commend members of Davis Medical Center Auxiliary,” Doak said. “They had the idea for this and went forward. Education is important for the community and the state. I think this sets the groundwork for the future.”

The program is available to all children in Randolph and Tucker counties born after Jan. 1, 2014. To enroll or for information about being a sponsor, contact Davis Health System at 304-636-3300.

So far, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is available to children in 22 counties in West Virginia, and the hope that it will soon expand to all 55 counties.