Roots Grow Wings gets a glowing report card for its first year

By Laura Longley

When my four-year-old son checks the mail and his new Imagination Library book is in the mailbox, his whole face lights up and he runs inside to read his new book immediately. Every book he has received so far has beautiful illustrations that capture his attention and a story that he wants to read over and over again.—Sarah Bascom

Sarah Bascom is but one of a growing number of western Loudoun parents who thank the lucky stars that led them to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Loudoun—Roots Grow Wings.

The early childhood reading program took off last January when a group of Purcellville-area teachers and mothers, already coping with home schooling due to COVID-19, decided that all local children would benefit from reading more. For inspiration, they looked to Dolly Parton’s phenomenally successful Imagination Library program and formed a partnership with the Rotary Club of Leesburg. They called it Roots Grow Wings, and, like Parton’s project, its goal is to inspire a lifelong love of learning by fostering greater connections and compassion through reading.

Elijah Bascom, age 4, avid reader of Roots Grow Wings monthly books.

Like Dolly Parton’s parent organization, Imagination Library of Loudoun strives to get free books into the hands of all children from birth, which in turn gifts confidence and understanding as the little ones walk through classroom doors at age 5.

When the group opened registration in two zip codes last April, says Kristin O’Rourke, a Loudoun cofounder, the teachers and mothers could count only a handful of enrolled children, mostly their own. But growth came quickly. Within six months they’d grown their base to six western Loudoun zip codes—20132, 20117, 20141, 20158, 20180, and 20197. 

“We currently have 269 children enrolled and 16 children who turned 5 and graduated from the program,” O’Rourke explained. ”We registered 65 children in September alone.”

Fundraising has grown apace as well. “Our first GiveChoose campaign with the Community Foundation of Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties was very successful,” said O’Rourke. “We raised over $9,000” That gave them the two years of operating capital they needed to participate in Parton’s program. “Since then,” added O’Rourke, “we’ve received a grant from The Robey Foundation as well as private donations. We hosted an art auction and sale at Sunset Hills Vineyard. Our next fundraiser—a plein air event, garden party, and silent auction—takes place at Purcellville’s beautiful Black Oak Farm on Oct. 17.

Roots Grow Wings leaders are aiming to bring in $10,000 between ticket sales at $75 per person, an amount that will fund a minimum of one year of books for one child for each ticket sold. The silent auction offerings are sure to command lively bidding. They include a beachfront stay in the Outer Banks, a round of golf at Stoneleigh Country Club, a King Street Oyster Food Truck party for 20, a Seven Springs golf getaway, and local artisans’ artwork, jewelry, and quilts.

In the coming year, while building its base of sponsors, the organization will focus on community outreach to spread the word about the program through local preschools and pediatricians’ offices.

Roots Grow Wings has no paid staff and very limited administrative expenses with volunteers managing subscriptions, book orders, and other day-to-day operations. Through its partnership with the Rotary Club of Leesburg Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, donations are tax deductible.  

Your donation directly impacts a child’s life. For just $25, you can provide a book a month for a child for the entire year. For $126, you can sponsor a child through the entire program.

Giving is easy: just visit the website at www.rootsgrowwings.org and go to the Donate page where you can click the donate button and contribute to the Imagination Library of Loudoun with a credit card or PayPal account.

Then think of that four-year-old’s smile upon opening the mailbox and discovering a book inside.

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