Making a difference in the Chattahoochee Valley
When Warren Steele's daughter participated in a reading program at school, he realized that there were children in our community who did not have access to books at home. Those children weren't read to as infants/toddlers and this lack of exposure to reading prior to kindergarten affected these children academically for the rest of their lives.
He decided to do something about this and in 2012 he established a local chapter under Ferst Readers of Muscogee County, working with the national chapter of Ferst Readers (a statewide literacy non-profit organization) to mail a free book monthly to children at their homes, from birth until their their 5th birthday, at no cost to families.
By 2021- 2022 Ferst Readers of Muscogee County had grown to support children in Muscogee and Chattahoochee Counties in Georgia and Russell County in Alabama. It was now the largest Ferst Readers chapter outside of Dallas, TX, based on children served. Serving over 3,600 children per month with free monthly books. The growth and success of Ferst Readers of Muscogee County led to the need of hiring a paid administrator to help with administrative duties. In 2021, Alan Harkness, the director of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries offered to hire an administrative assistant to work part-time as an administrator to assist Ferst Readers of Muscogee County as part of their mission in supporting early literacy in the Chattahoochee Valley.
This year (2023) our local board has decided to change our book distribution source from Ferst Readers, a non-profit serving roughly 50,000 children nationally to the Dollywood Foundation, known as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL), serving over 1.5 million children worldwide. Moving forward, our name will be the Chattahoochee Valley Imagination Library.
Both DPIL and Ferst use a very similar model to support children in local areas. The communities register children and raise the funds to support those children. A difference between the two is that Ferst also provides some additional administrative support and operates as the financial agent (hold and disburse funds) for their counties. Since we have a paid administrator we don’t need as much support as communities that are all volunteer-based. This savings in cost will allow us to serve more children in the Chattahoochee Valley. We are excited for this new partnership!