Bonner scholars provide youth books through Dolly Parton program

Anna Lawson

WKU is no stranger to service projects. Students and staff alike participate in everything from environmental projects to food drives. However, students have recently taken initiative on a different front.

Jillian Weston, an Indianapolis junior, is teaming up with other Bonner Scholars to spread the word about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Bonner scholars are students who are dedicated to giving back and working on service projects. They each set aside 10 hours a week to give back to their communities. Once accepted into the program, they work to develop philanthropic and leadership skills to help them in the future.

Together, they leave long-lasting impacts on the communities they serve, according to the Bonner Scholar official WKU website.

Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1996. It was originally meant to assist the people in her home county in East Tennessee. Parton wanted to help kids find a love of reading at a young age by providing them with a new book every month.

According to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library’s official website, Parton wants children to witness the “magic,” that a book can bring, regardless of the family’s income.

Since its inception, the organization has mailed nearly 40 million books to children. Bowling Green is currently one of the 1,600 communities that are working through Imagination Library to provide children with new books every month. That’s where Weston comes in.

Weston and her team will be going to different schools over the semester to sign kids up for Imagination Library. They will also be advertising in grocery stores and churches.

“If we are not reaching enough children in these ways, we will start going door to door in neighborhoods in order to get children signed up to receive a free book every month until the age of five,” Weston said.

Lejla Mehmedovic, a Bowling Green freshman works with Weston. Mehmedovic grew up in Bosnia, and moved to Bowling Green 2001.

“When I was 5 years old, I did not have these kinds of opportunities. I really wish that I would have,” she said. “I think that I could have learned English much faster if I would have had books to read. This would be great for the refugee families because their children could start reading and learning much faster.”

Being in college, many students may not realize how important it is to just learn how to read. However, Weston realizes that this is how all people build a foundation for their futures.

“Youth should be empowered at an early age to realize their potential and accomplish their goals. As the saying goes, ‘Knowledge is power.’ When we have the knowledge, then we can learn to apply it,” Weston said.

“Without an intelligent generation following us, our future is grim,” she added. “I am attempting to help youth grow into productive members of society so that Bowling Green can not only survive, but thrive.”

However, the students are not the only ones benefiting from Imagination Library, Weston said she will gain something from the experience as well.

“I am hoping to learn how to enable our youth and in turn motivate myself to be a better member of society,” Weston said.

“My heart is set on getting at least 150 children registered for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library by the end of the semester.”

The group is currently targeting refugee children in the Bowling Green area.

“Since we have so many refugees and international kids, we thought it would be a wonderful idea to enforce something like this at a younger age,” Mehmedovic said.

“Our main focus is preschool and younger kids because this is the age group to which the Dolly Parton program donates books.”

Mehmedovic’s biggest goal for the program is that in years to come she will hear that this really did make a difference for a young child.

“Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like seeing a child at a young age reading?” she said. “I hope that this will keep going in the preschools and churches. Hopefully the word will spread to the entire community so that people with young children can take advantage of such a great opportunity.”