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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 06:13 GMT
Town book plan a Dolly good idea
Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton is launching the scheme in Rotherham
A South Yorkshire town is gearing up for the arrival of country and western star Dolly Parton as the entertainer brings her literacy scheme to the UK.

Dolly Parton has seen thousands of free books distributed across America as part of her plan to boost the reading skills of pre-school children.

Now the star is set to launch her Imagination Library at the Magna Centre - a former steel works in Rotherham.

Dr Sonia Sharp, from the council's children's services, backed the scheme.

Rotherham is thought to be the first area in country to sign up for the Dolly Parton experiment to encourage young children to discover the joys of reading.

Every pre-school age child in Rotherham will be sent a free book every month.

'Little idea'

David Dotson, of the Dolly Parton Foundation, said: "Certainly there are differences in culture and history and traditions [between America and the UK], but I think there's also much more that's similar than is different.

"That's a love of children, the emphasis on education, the belief that what happens with reading and writing and science at an early age is really going to define a child's future.

"We just firmly believe that this one little idea will quickly become a UK idea."

Magna Centre
The country and western star will be at the Magna Centre

Dr Sharp said: "I think we have a history of low educational attainment and low engagement in learning across the age ranges so that families aren't reading as much.

"Therefore we're seeing lower levels of language, of vocabulary and reading experience in our younger children."

The leader of Rotherham Council, Roger Stone, added: "The aim is to use systems that they've got to integrate... so that they complement one another.

"One of the first things that David Dodson of the Imagination Library said they did not want to do was damage any other book schemes.

"Any book scheme that puts books into family homes in an attempt to get parents to read to the children as they go through life has got to be good.

"Reading with children cannot do anything but good. No matter what happens with the scheme, it's got to be a win-win situation."

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