Women United to hold fundraiser to support Mon County Dolly Parton Imagination Library

MORGANTOWN — Lydotta Taylor reads. A lot.

She’s also a kindred spirit to Dolly Parton, the country music superstar.

First, though, the reading.

Something related to Taylor’s field is always crossing her desk at The EdVenture Group.

Taylor is founder and CEO of the tech and professional development company in Morgantown.

Tech and professional development are appropriate descriptions for the words she devours daily.

Trade journals. Performance reports. Complex marketing missives.

Assessments and more assessments.

Biographies and autobiographies of the world’s top innovators and entrepreneurs, even.

When she has time, though, she’ll indulge. She’ll dig into a Nora Roberts romance novel, and lose herself.

“That’s just for fun,” she said, recently. “It really is like they say, there’s nothing like a good book.”

She read to her kids when they were growing up.

As a high school teacher, she used to stress the importance of reading, both for serious learning and for fun, escapist entertainment.

“And I taught math and science,” she said.

Now, Taylor is hearkening back to her days as a high school educator who pushed the printed word.

And she’s doing it with the assistance and direction of the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties and the aforementioned Parton.

Taylor is helping lead the effort to fund “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library” here.

Getting noses in books

The enterprise isn’t a lending library. It’s a gifting one. The library mails free books to children from newborn to age 5, no matter their family’s income.

Parton came up with the idea in 1995. The idea was to promote childhood literacy in Sevier County, Tenn., where she grew up in a loving family that didn’t always have books or money to buy them.

It was also a tribute to her late father, Robert Lee Parton, who went to work instead of school as a child so he could help support his parents.

She talked about it with reporters in March in Washington, at the Library of Congress. It was a milestone moment: The occasion of the Imagination Library’s gifting of its 100 millionth book.

The chapter was also shadowed with sadness.

“Daddy couldn’t read and write,” she said, “and that was kind of crippling to him.”

Parton’s library is now across the U.S., including West Virginia, where it’s available in 39 of the state’s 55 counties. Audio and Braille books are also included.

 Power of the purse (and words on the page)

To help get the library going here, Women United, a component of the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties, is hosting a “Power of the Purse” fundraiser this month.

The event will run from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place.

A variety of high-end handbags will be available for bid in the silent auction.

Special guest is Emily Calandrelli, a Morgantown native you can also see on television as a host and producer of “Xploration Outer Space” on the FOX network.

Calandrelli is also known as the author of the “Ada Lace” series of science-themed adventure books for young readers.

Tickets are $100, which includes a year sponsorship for a child in the Imagination Library. Visit http://www.unitedwaympc.org/potp for more details.

Taylor also reads the reports showing the Mountain State’s not-so-stellar progress in reading comprehension.

West Virginia constantly lags behind the nation in literacy and reading proficiency rates, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress and other benchmarks.

Every day is a benchmark in cognitive development for the Imagination Library target audience of kids from newborn to 5, Taylor said.

Turning pages, she said, means turning lives.

“It changes everything,” the teacher-turned CEO said.

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