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Ballyclare homebuilder delivers books to children through Dolly Parton scheme

Ballyclare homebuilder, Hagan Homes, is celebrating one year since it brought the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to children around Belfast.

The company, which invested £75,000 to introduce the three-year programme to families in Belfast in 2020, despite the pandemic, has successfully supported the delivery of 6,916 books to 1,010 children through nine Sure Start Centres.

The Imagination Library, which was set up by US country music star Dolly Parton in 2007 as the flagship programme of the Dollywood Foundation, sees thousands of children from birth to five years of age around the UK receive a free age-appropriate book in the post every month to support the development of early language and literacy skills, and inspire a lifelong love of reading.

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The books are carefully selected by a committee of experts in the UK and include popular characters such as Spot the Dog and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and authors and illustrators including Ed Vere, Nadia Shireen, and Nick Sharratt.

Ballyclare homebuilder, Hagan Homes, is celebrating one year since it brought the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to children around Belfast. Pic by Press Eye.

The Dollywood Foundation provides the infrastructure enabling the programme, but it is made accessible to children in different locations through partnerships with what the charity calls ‘local champions.’

Champions can be businesses, education authorities, small or large organisations, or simply individuals who share in the mission and purpose of the Imagination Library.

In Belfast Hagan Homes took on that role last year in partnership with nine Sure Start centres across the city. Since then, the scheme has introduced many young children to the skill of reading and the art of storytelling.

Speaking about the scheme’s success, James Hagan, Chair and Founder of Hagan Homes said: “We are delighted to receive the figures from the Imagination Library and discover that so many children are benefitting from this programme here in Northern Ireland.

“We believe in investing in communities and in building community capacity. Strong communities are the bedrock of a strong society.

“We want to empower individuals to believe in their own potential and to achieve all that they can.

“Encouraging people to read and fostering creativity from an early age, is extremely important. Reading parents’ comments on how the books have enriched their and their children’s lives has been very heart-warming, especially at a time when access to conventional educational settings has been restricted.

“We pledged £75,000 to the Imagination Library and 2020 saw the expenditure of around 20 per cent of that, which means there are still many more children to benefit from this wonderful scheme.”

Dr Marion Gillooly, Executive Director from The Dollywood Foundation UK, added: “We are immensely grateful to Hagan Homes for their generous donation, which has enabled us to work with our Sure Start partners to give free books to over 1,000 children in Belfast.

“The feedback from families has been incredible. We’re thrilled that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has brought excitement and joy into homes across the city, particularly during the Covid restrictions.”

The Sure Start programme, which benefits from the scheme in Belfast, supports parents with children aged under four years old, living in disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland. The programme can help a parent from pregnancy until their child starts school.

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Last month the Newtownabbey Times reported that Hagan Homes had recently picked up a Federation of Small Businesses award for services to the community.

For more on this story, read here

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