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Sullivan County Imagination Library delivers one millionth book

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KINGSPORT — The Sullivan County Imagination Library hand delivered its one millionth book to a local child, Eli Nekuri, on Saturday. Eli has been enrolled in the program since birth, and he is set to graduate upon his fifth birthday next month.

“This is a huge milestone for our program,” said Sandra Little, SCIL board president. “We began this chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library 17 years ago with only 312 children enrolled. Today, we celebrate gifting our millionth book to one of our 6,400 children enrolled. We are thrilled to share this special moment with Eli and his family.”

Eli’s parents, Jessi and Suresh Nekuri, said the program started by superstar Dolly Parton has been a great benefit to Eli.

“We appreciate the opportunity to highlight the amazing book program started by Dolly Parton,” Jessi Nekuri said. “The book series has benefited Eli tremendously in his interest to read and develop vocabulary at a very young age. He started reading books by himself when he turned 4. Each book is meticulously written to teach children good values. Dolly Parton’s insight to develop this program for every child in Tennessee is remarkable and we are forever indebted to her for shaping our children’s lives. Her passion to help both young and old Tennesseans is simply astonishing.

“We as parents are very grateful for the program and we pray that more children are benefited from this program.”

Presentation of the one millionth book distributed by the SCIL took place outside in order to adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions, and included a parade of decorated cars, with plenty of horn blowing.

After circling the block, the cars parked on the street as Eli stood near the front of the house with family and friends. Most of those who exited the parked cars stood at the edge of the lawn, as Little and two board members approached Eli.

To get things started, Jane Bellamy presented Eli with the book “How Much is a Million?” with a handwritten inscription to Eli from the book’s author, David M. Schwartz, pointing out Eli is “one in a million.”

Next, Carrie Schwartz presented Eli with the book every child in the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library system receives the month they turn 5 years old: “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!”

Little then presented Eli with a framed print commemorating the SCIL’s millionth-book milestone.

Then everyone on the lawn joined in singing happy birthday to Eli.

The millionth book celebration, which included cake pops and other treats, was sponsored by Stanley Fish, in memory of his late wife, Flora Fish, a founding board member of the SCIL, and dear friend Jan Miles, co-founder and first president of the SCIL. Board members expressed their gratefulness for their legacy of selfless service and generosity.

About the Sullivan County Imagination Library

The SCIL provides free, age- appropriate books each month in the mail to help children develop the love of reading. All children who are legal residents of Sullivan County from birth to age 5 can be registered for this program, regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnicity or family income. These books are made available in partnership with the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, the State of Tennessee, United Way, the Dollywood Foundation, and many other generous sponsors. For more information or to enroll, visit:



About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has mailed well over 150 million free books in Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.7 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age 5. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

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