A dollar a month could be the difference between success and struggle when it comes to a child’s education, something that has teachers putting their money where their mouths are this year.
Under a voluntary payroll deduction plan, all employees of Warren County Schools, a number nearly 1,000 strong, have an option to have a one-time $12 deduction from their salary that will go directly to the local Books from Birth Program.
“There’ll be no pressure either way,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox noting employees can decide not to contribute or they can even opt to contribute more than the suggested $12 per year.
The Governor’s Books from Birth program is part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which seeks to put books in the hands of pre-school children beginning when they are infants. The books are mailed each month to the child’s home and are free of charge regardless of income. The idea behind the books is they help in early literacy as they expose children to reading at a young age. Warren County was one of the original counties to participate in the program through a partnership with the Southern Standard. The program is now going on in all 95 Tennessee counties.
While the Imagination Library pays postage and the Books From Birth Foundation helps fund the books there is a still a $12 gap. The plan with the payroll contribution is to bridge that gap and hopefully escalate the number of children in Warren County receiving the books.
“It doesn’t have to just be school system employees,” Cox noted. “Organizations and individuals can also contribute.”
Those wanting to contribute or to sign up for Books From Birth can do so at the Southern Standard on College Street.
“All it takes is just a dollar a month,” said Autumn Turner who presented the plan to the school board recently noting that the age-appropriate books not only aid in education but it is also exciting for the child to get something in the mail each month. “That shiny new book may be the only thing they get that they can call their own.”
School Board Chairman Bill Zechman said it is an investment in the future seeing low literacy translates into high populations in the county jail.
“This is an intervention plan for us,” Zechman said, noting private prison facilities shape their building programs on illiteracy rates since high illiteracy rates and crime go hand in hand. “It costs $8,300 to educate a child each year and it costs $28,000 to keep them up in the jail. You do the math and that’s not even taking into consideration the human toll.”