'The engine that could'

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Retired Marshall County High School band director Arnold Quarles confers with Books From Birth Foundation leaders Karen Y. Johnson, center, and Lady Bird at Wednesday's Rotary Club meeting.

Lewisburg's Rotary Club is at the forefront of groups supporting the Imagination Library and the Books From Birth program started, respectively, by country music star Dolly Parton and Gov. Phil Bredesen.

That's according to the president of the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, who spoke at the local club's luncheon on Wednesday, the fourth anniversary of Parton's Imagination Library. The foundation president's name is Lady Bird, and, she explained it has nothing to do with Lyndon Johnson's wife's name, although she was a long-time leader among Tennessee Democrats.

Lady was her great aunt's name. Her husband is Billy Bird, a retired executive at Broadcast Music Inc. Regardless, the lady took license to sing the praises of Lewisburg Rotarians.

"You are the 'engine that could,'" Bird said of the service club members with a reference to the children's book, "The Little Engine That Could."

It's the first book sent to children enrolled in the Imagination Library, supported by the governor who's said he has "always believed that books in the home are one of the signposts of a child who will do well in school."

That basic philosophy is Parton's motive, too, and so the foundation has founded non-profit organizations in 92 counties. Those groups get individuals and businesses to underwrite the cost of one book per month through the mail at no cost to all parents of the enrolled children. The service continues until the child is 5 years old.

Now that the Imagination Library is four years old, Bird told the Rotarians, "The program is getting some challenges. It's hard to get donations." . . .Pick up a copy of Friday, June 20, 2008 edition for full story.