Axed Dolly Parton's free book service for Doncaster children under five is unlikely to return

A popular service which provided a free book to Doncaster children every month axed by the council is unlikely to be coming back, mayor Ros Jones has said.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 02 August, 2019, 17:53
Daniella Laffay, who set up the petition to bring the service back, and her daughter Esme Scott who . Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library the scheme sent one free book through the post a month to children under five across the borough and Doncaster had one of the highest uptakes in the whole country.

But in an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service council education bosses said the local authority could no longer afford to pay for it and the scheme was to end on August 31.

It said ‘difficult decisions’ had to be made after a thorough review of literacy services while trying to find alternative funding.

Council chiefs said it would need to fork out over £650,000 to continue the project and it’s understood 12,000 recepients have been affected including those on a waiting list.

The Imagination Library, supported by Parton’s Dollywood Foundation, began in 1995 in the US before heading across the Atlantic years later.

A petition by Armthorpe mum Daniella Laffay, whose three-year-old daughter Esmé receives a book each month, has been signed by almost 3,000 people calling for it to be continued.

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Mayor Jones said: “We kept it on longer than the funding was there for it in order to try and bring in others.

“But we want people to attend their local libraries going along their and accessing the books.

“We actually promoted the service heavily and took it very seriously because early years learning is paramount for a child progressing forward.

“There is a book going to individual children and we do really believe in recycling and reusing. There’s other organisations like Re-Read which is available to provide that facility.

“We’ve retained the provision of early years learning and they’re receiving really good reports back and we know how important it is in the first 1,000 days of the child’s life.

“The scheme is due to in August in which a book would be sent out because it was a very expensive way of delivering this service.”