For Immediate Release: June 30, 2021

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is pleased to launch the second year of the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Book Club, a partnership between the WVDE, the Marshall University June Harless Center and The Dollywood Foundation. As part of the project, approximately 258,000 books will be distributed this summer to public school children entering first, second and third grade next school year.

The Blue Ribbon Book Club will provide early learners with a small library of high-quality books. Shipments will begin with two books shipped to West Virginia children over the next several weeks and two additional books shipped by mid to late July. Teachers will also receive these books before the start of their school year so they may create lessons during the school year based on the readings.

“This year, we were able to expand the program to include our third graders, which means more books in the hands of our youngest learners,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “The program continues to be the only one of its kind in the nation, and as a result, West Virginia children are growing up with a love for reading and learning. Now, more than ever, there is great benefit when we extend learning and family engagement, and The Dollywood Foundation and Marshall University’s June Harless make it all possible.”

In conjunction with the Book Club, the WVDE has posted complementary family engagement resources on its website and will feature commercials on its West Virginia Public Broadcasting program, Education Station. Additionally, the Department has included a lineup of Celebrity Readers on the website who will participate in the Book Club. These notable West Virginians introduce various Book Club selections, and families are encouraged to watch the Celebrity Reader and family resource videos once the books are delivered to the children’s homes. Many summer learning programs occurring statewide will receive the same books so that children can engage with the books when they participate in these programs.

“The Dollywood Foundation is excited to once again partner with the West Virginia Department of Education and the June Harless Center at Marshall University to provide the 2021 West Virginia Blue Ribbon Book Club Collection for every emerging first, second and third grade public school student statewide,” said Nora Briggs, Executive Director of The Dollywood Foundation. “The books and accompanying resources that will be available to children, families, educators and summer learning programming providers will help nurture a culture of literacy and learning over the summer months, help to mitigate pandemic learning loss and most importantly, give children an opportunity to have access to a variety of exciting books over their summer vacations.”

Because each classroom will receive the book sets, teachers can build on summer literacy activities when school resumes. Additionally, children will have shared learning experiences when they return to school with their classmates. This will enhance social and emotional support and their sense of belonging.

To learn more about the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Book Club, visit

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or by emailing

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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 140 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.6 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five. 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. For more information, please visit