St. Francis kicks off the book Dolly Parton

September 27 — LORETTO, Pa. – Tackling illiteracy in Cambria County begins with teaching children to read.

St. Francis University launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program for Cambria County on Saturday. The literacy program started by the country music legend sends free books to children ages birth to 5 every month in communities around the world.

Members of the university set up 37 children’s activity tables inside the auxiliary gymnasium at the Maurice Stokes Athletic Center.

“Over 100 faculty, students and staff are involved here,” said Robert Young, assistant vice president for government relations, grants and foundations.

“We enroll children in the program and provide them with the opportunity to participate in literacy activities,” said Melissa Peppetti, Director of Graduate Studies.

Kaylyn Riner, from Dysart, attended the event to register her two children, Nora, 2, and Finn, 1.

“We came out because they offer free books for children,” she said. “I think it’s great. It’s great that this is happening in our community.”

It was State Representative Frank Burns of the Township of D-East Taylor who introduced the Dolly Parton Reading Program in Cambria County and received a state grant of $ 50,000.

Burns said he heard about the program a few years earlier at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tennessee, with Parton as a guest speaker.

“There is no better way to increase literacy in our county than to put a book in a child’s hand from an early age,” said Burns. “I really think about all the things that I have done as a lawmaker, it could have the most impact.

“We are really going to make a difference,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, everyone is entitled to a free book.”

To sign up for free books, go to, click “Check Availability”, enter your zip code and follow the instructions.

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