June 5, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education is pleased to launch the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Selections Book Club, a partnership between the WVDE, the Marshall University June Harless Center, and The Dollywood Foundation. As part of the project, approximately 200,000 books will be distributed this summer to children entering first and second grade next school year.

Each summer, many school-aged children experience significant learning loss while school is in recess. The COVID-19 pandemic required schools in the state to move to a remote learning model on March 16. With this disruption, student engagement over the summer is even more important.

The Blue Ribbon Selections Book Club will provide early learners with a small library of high-quality books. Approximately 37,000 West Virginia children are slated to receive a shipment of two books to their homes in mid-June and three additional books in mid-July. First and second-grade teachers will also receive these books before the start of their school year.

“I am excited about the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Selections Book Club,” said State Superintendent of Schools, W. Clayton Burch. “The partnership is the only one of its kind in the nation and West Virginia children who are in the process of learning how to read and are developing a love of reading will benefit tremendously. These may be the only books some children have in their homes, and we hope this will be the beginning of a lifetime of reading and learning.”

In conjunction with the Book Club, the WVDE will post complementary family engagement resources on its website, and activities will also be included during weekly segments on its West Virginia Public Broadcasting program Education Station. In the near future, the Department will announce a lineup of Celebrity Readers who will participate in the Book Club. These notable West Virginians will read Book Club selections on the aforementioned platforms once the books are delivered to the children’s homes.

“Handing a child a book is a passport for that child to experience magical adventures, wonderful characters, exciting places, and new information that will open up a whole new world of knowledge and develop their love of books and reading,” said Marshall University June Harless Center Executive Director Dr. Stan Maynard. “I commend the West Virginia Department of Education for their commitment to the education of some of our youngest students during this time of disruption in their normal school experience.”

“The Dollywood Foundation is happy to partner to provide a special collection curated by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for the West Virginia Blue Selections Ribbon Book Club,” said Nora Briggs, Executive Director of The Dollywood Foundation. “Summer is here and it is the perfect time to relax and get lost in a great book. We hope the children love the books and enjoy reading them.”

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.

For more information, contact Christy Day, Office of Communications, at Christy.Day@k12.wv.us or 304-558-2699.


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 imaginationlibrary.com.