Country singer Dolly Parton is to support a scheme to provide free books for children born in Southwark this year.
The scheme will give a every child born in Southwark from December 2015 to December 2016 a free book every month from birth until their fifth birthday.
The project is being run through The Imagination Library, which began in 1995, and is supported by Parton’s Dollywood Foundation, which promotes early childhood literacy internationally, and travel company, DialAFlight.
DialAFlight is the locally-based funder of the Southward scheme and is allocating £750,000 to the project from its own charity, Make My Day Better, as a part of its community outreach work with the aim of improving literacy in the borough.
Parton’s vision for the foundation is to “enable children of all backgrounds to have access to books from birth regardless of household income." The Southwark scheme will be the first borough-wide Imagination Library in London.
Councillor Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said: "We are delighted to be working with both the Dollywood Foundation and DialAFlight to give free books to the youngest residents in our borough. With many families still feeling the pinch it has never been so important to ensure that children have access to books so they can learn and develop as much as possible in their early years.
"Our libraries already run some wonderful sessions for the under five age group, with a huge range of books available for parents to read with their children, but it’s fantastic that this scheme will also allow children and families to start building up a library of their very own."
Parents must register their children by the end of 2016 and they will only be eligible to receive books while they live in Southwark.
Books available to children in the first year are published by Penguin Random House and include The Snowman, Meg and Mog, Dear Zoo, Hairy Maclary and Bedtime for Monsters.
World Book Day Illustrator and author of Pom Pom Gets the Grumps (Puffin), Sophy Henn, will be leading a special reading session at the launch on 19th January 2016 at Camberwell Library.