Moore Educational Trust Will Continue to Support Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Moore Educational Trust Will Continue to Support Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Posted on 03/29/2017
Cohan reading to his little sister Eloen

    “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is so clearly making a difference.”       Elizabeth Cottrell, Treasurer
                                    Moore Educational Trust

Members of the Moore Educational Trust Board of Directors have voted unanimously to make an annual grant of $10,000.00 for the next five years to support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) in Shenandoah County.  In the fifth year, the Board will look again at the program to determine whether to continue, decrease, or increase their support.   The first of the five grants will be issued on July 1, 2017. 

Cohan Tusing was the first child in Shenandoah County to be registered for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library back in 2013.  He’s reading The Little Engine that Could, the first DPIL book that children receive through the program.  It was Dolly Parton’s favorite book.  Barely visible is  Cohan’s sister Eloen. Cohan and Eloen are the children of Logan and Susan Tusing of Mt. Jackson, VA.

The Moore Educational Trust made this extended commitment because, as Elizabeth Cottrell, Treasurer for the Moore Grant Trust, reported, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is “so clearly making a difference.”  A review of surveys and data collection definitely indicate the positive impact of the DPIL program on kindergarten literacy in Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Susan Tusing, Director of DPIL, and Heather Diehl, Assistant Director, are both first grade teachers at Ashby Lee Elementary School.  They are hopeful that these additional funds will be sufficient to support another 200 children under 5 years old, increasing enrollment in DPIL from 800 to 1,000 children.  According to 2010 census data, there are 2,475 children under age 5 in Shenandoah County.

Shenandoah County’s DPIL journey began in 2012 when Susan Tusing and Dana Conlon, SCPS teachers, were finishing up their journey in James Madison University’s Masters Reading Cohort.  Their reading professor told the class about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library; for Mrs. Tusing and Ms. Conlon, the program was something that they knew would make a huge difference in our county.  

Sponsored by The Dollywood Foundation, the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) program mails a brand new, age-appropriate book to enrolled children every month from birth through age five.  Dolly Parton (yes, the country music star!) launched DPIL in 1995 in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Logoan effort to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families living in East Tennessee. She wanted children “to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create.  Moreover, she could ensure (through DPIL)  that every child would have books, regardless of family income.”  In just five years, Dolly Parton made the program available nationwide “for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally.”   (information from
https://imaginationlibrary.com/ ).  

Both Mrs. Tusing (ALE teacher) and Ms. Conlon (former WWR teacher) were all too familiar with the problems facing young children who enter kindergarten without oral language skills.  They also knew that children who are read to during the first years of life are much more likely to learn to read on schedule. Mrs. Tusing and Ms. Conlon also learned through studies in other locations that childhood literacy improved for children enrolled in DPIL.

“We knew that DPIL would be a great asset to children in our community,”   said Mrs. Tusing.  “This program started out as our final master’s program, but we knew that our Shenandoah County children needed this program; and we both wanted to try our hardest to make this program a reality.”   On a mission dear to their hearts, she and Ms. Conlon “did the leg work.”  They researched DPIL online and visited the United Way of Augusta County to research the program since it been established, with UW support, in the Augusta County School Division.   They quickly found two facts:   they would need to find the backing of a 501c3 and they would need $20,000 to launch DPIL in Shenandoah County.  The cost of DPIL is approximately $2.10 per child, per book or approximately $25 per child, per year.  “These books are “select, high-quality books that are age appropriate,” said Mrs. Tusing.  “Classics and traditional stories are included and there are, as well, reading strategies for parents.” 

Dr. Jeremy Raley, then SCPS Director of Finance and member of the Board of Directors of the Shenandoah Education Foundation (SEF), was a “huge proponent of DPIL,” commented Mrs. Tusing. “He helped us organize a presentation for the Shenandoah EducationSEF LOgo Foundation and as a result of this presentation, SEF agreed not only to partner with us as the 501c3 non-profit organization backing DPIL in Shenandoah County, but also to give us our first donation.  They gave us our first $5,000, which we needed to order brochures and other promotional materials.  With SEF support and a clear vision for how DPIL would work in Shenandoah County, we were able to apply for a Moore Grant, which was fully funded for $20,000 in 2013. 

Susan Tusing & Dana Conlon
From left, Susan Tusing and Dana Conlon receive
 $20,000 check from (former) Superintendent of Schools
 Dr. Keith Rowland at the 2013 Moore Educational Trust Banquet.


The first book order was shipped to Shenandoah County homes in June of 2013.  That first year, 747 children from birth to age five received a free book each month.   Currently, around 800 preschoolers receive books each month with a waiting list of almost 100 children.  Annually, DPIL needs $20,000 to continue to support almost 800 preschool children. “We have mailed out over 33,000 free books since beginning in 2013,” said Ms. Tusing

Heather Diehl & Susan Tusing
Heather Diehl (left), Susan Tusing, and former
 Superintendent, Dr. Jeremy Raley 
at 2016 Moore
 Banquet, where the DPIL program was awarded

Since that initial Moore Grant of $20,000 in 2013, the DPIL has continued in SCPS through funding from a variety of sources including a second Moore Grant ($5,000 in 2016), the United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, Lawrence L. Lucas Foundation, Target, Valley Foundation, and Shenandoah Community Foundation.  Ms. Tusing added that SEF members Karen Whetzel and Cyndy Walsh “are our biggest supporters and partners with this endeavor and have helped with numerous grants and funding options.  Dennis Dysart, who is treasurer of SEF, handles all of the finances for DPIL through the SEF.”  In addition to possibly supporting 200 more children in DPIL, the new Moore Grant commitment of five years of funding should also relieve some of the pressure of the constant concern for fund raising. 

To determine the effectiveness of DPIL, Susan Tusing and Heather Diehl used initial and follow-up surveys to families and recent PALS data (Phonemic Awareness Literacy Screening).  PALS has been described as a “valid, reliable, and research-based assessment tool for early literacy skills.” 

Surveys of families indicate that children have more books in their homes since beginning DPIL.  For example, in 2013-2014, 16% of homes had 100+ books; in early 2015, 37% of homes had 100+ books.   The number of parents who always read to their children increased from 32% to 45%.  Parents who read to their children more than 2 hours per week increased from 14% to 55%. 

Heather Diehl and Susan Tusing
Heather Diehl (left) and Susan Tusing were happy and
 encouraged to learn about the positive impact of the Dolly
 Parton Imagination Library.

A comparison of PALS’ data for students receiving DPIL books and students not receiving DPIL books indicates that on all six components (Group Rhyme, Group Beginning Sound, Letter ID, Letter Sounds, Spelling, Concept of Word) of the PALS assessment, the group of students who received DPIL books scored above students who did not receive these books. The DPIL positive impact on PALS scores were true both in the fall and mid-year assessments of 2016-2017 and ranged from 4% to 20%.


Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is Making a Difference
 for Shenandoah County’s Children!! 

 Eleon Tusing

 Cohan Tusing

          Eloen and Cohan Tusing with their first books





DPIl logoAdditional Information from the
Dolly Parton Imagination Library Flyer

Why is Reading Aloud to Young Children So Important?
The Importance of Early Literacy  and Early Intervention

 ~Children who live in print-rich environments and who are read to during the first years of life are much more likely to learn to read on schedule.

 ~ Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.

 ~ Early language skills, the foundation for reading ability and school readiness, are based primarily on language exposure - resulting from parents and other adults talking to young children.

 ~ Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child's vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4.

 ~ Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children's books actually contain 50% more rare words than prime time television or even college students conversations.

 ~ The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.

 ~ Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, which increases the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy - all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.


Moore Logo Helen Moore and the Moore Educational Trust

 Benefactor-Helen Moore

Helen Moore, born December 3, 1908, was one of four daughters and one son in rural Cherokee County, Kansas. Despite the absence of local educational opportunities and reflective of their high regard for education, her parents boarded the children in a house in town so they could attend school during the week. As a result of the parents’ efforts and dedication for the education of their children, all of the five siblings graduated from high school which, during that era, was an accomplishment worthy of praise and attention.

 Helen continued her education after high school and received business training which lead her to join the Federal Government where she remained in administration for 30 years, the majority of which was at the Central Intelligence Agency. She was regarded as an extremely intelligent person who was interested in local, national, and international issues.

 Throughout Helen’s life she loved the land and returned to her agricultural roots frequently. During their married life, Helen and Willis Moore owned farms first in Loudoun, then Frederick, and lastly Shenandoah Counties.

At the time of her death on May 19, 2002, Helen was a long-time resident of Shenandoah County and the town of Strasburg. Helen Moore highly valued education and the inherent personal benefit a quality education can offer an individual. The Moore Educational Trust, established on her death, has granted more than a million dollar to teachers and administrators for instructional use across the curriculum or for professional development.   Her legacy, in this regard, will now and forever be honored through the Moore Educational Trust.



 We believe that great communities 
come from great schools.

The Shenandoah Education Foundation endeavors to produce world-class students by supporting great teaching and innovative learning opportunities in Shenandoah County.  We can accomplish our vision by supporting:

 For the last several years, the Shenandoah Education Foundation has awarded a $2500 grant to the school division’s Teacher of the Year. Most of the grant money has been used to purchase technology needs for the classroom, including Chromebooks and document cameras.
 The Shenandoah Education Foundation serves as the nonprofit sponsor of the Shenandoah County Chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This program provides one book a month, at no charge, to children from birth to age 5. Studies show that children who are read to at a young age go on to be better readers and more successful in school. 
Developing programs to enhance the music in education experience for both our students and our teachers.