Dr. Dylan Teut collaborates with community partners to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Seward County

Published by Amy Crawford 3 weeks ago on Thu, May 23, 2024 8:00 AM

Dr. Dylan Teut CO ’12 GR ‘15, director of literacy programming and outreach and instructor for the graduate college of education at Concordia University, Nebraska recently oversaw the efforts to bring Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to the children of Seward County. Teut is a member of the Kiwanis Club and worked with Kiwanis Club leadership, the Kiwanis Foundation and the Seward Rotary Club to bring the program to Seward County.  

Each month, children ages 0-5 registered in the program will receive a free book in the mail. After visiting Dollywood last summer and learning more about the library, Teut began researching the feasibility of bringing the program to Seward County. The program launched mid-April, was rolled out in mid-May, and more than 160 children registered in the first three weeks. A launch party was held at Seward Memorial Library on Thursday, May 16. 

“I remain in awe of how quickly the program began once it was evident we had support from leaders throughout Seward County,” said Teut. “The enthusiasm surrounding the embracement made it clear that Seward County values its children, values literacy and values bringing the two together. While it's delightful to envision children eagerly receiving their books and witnessing the cherished moments of reading with their parents and loved ones, it's essential to recognize that the impact extends far beyond these heartwarming scenes. These books play a crucial role in elevating literacy rates within our communities, preparing children for school and reducing the need for remediation. This, in turn, contributes to higher graduation rates and ultimately nurtures a more skilled and capable workforce. Additionally, there are significant positive effects on community health and parent-child attachment stemming from increased literacy levels.” 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) was launched in 1995 to benefit the children of Dolly Parton’s home county in East Tennessee. Parton sought to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. The program gave each child a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, Parton wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income. While the Dollywood Foundation pays for the books, partner organizations are responsible for raising money to cover shipping costs for the books. It costs $2.20 to send one child one book. The ongoing success of this initiative will be funded by organizations and donors in Seward County who share the mission and vision. 

Teut worked with Seward Rotary members Mark Kolterman and Clark Kolterman, Seward Kiwanis Club members Pastor Earl Pierce and Pastor David Dobbertien CO ‘83, Annie Neuman from Seward Memorial Hospital and Jacob Jennings CO ’20 GR ‘22 with Seward County Chamber of Commerce to form a task force to launch the initiative. Teut is the volunteer director of the DPIL program operations in Seward County. He regularly uses the program software to register children, advocates for the importance of the program throughout the county, reports statistics to affiliates, fundraises and helps connect stakeholders with the program. 

Concordia Nebraska’s Plum Creek Literacy Festival and other literacy initiatives have already landed Seward as a literacy landmark of the Midwest,” said Teut. “The quick collaboration of community members and eager number of volunteers to help oversee the programming of DPIL affirmed that we are part of a community that is invested in enriching the lives of children of all ages and all backgrounds.”  

If a child is under five years old and has a Seward County zip code, they are eligible to receive free books each month. Those interested may visit www.imaginationlibrary.com to learn more, to sign up children ages 0-5 for the program or to or to make a contribution toward costs affiliated with the effort. 

Concordia University, Nebraska's reading and literacy faculty are distinguished by excellence in teaching and scholarship. Their expertise inspires in the classroom, makes them leaders in their academic field and impacts the church and world.