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A woman reading a book to a child.

A literacy program set up by the queen of country, Dolly Parton, that gifts free books to disadvantaged children, is being rolled out at Playford Alive in a bid to support early childhood development.

Renewal SA’s community grants program, Playford Alive Initiatives Fund, has contributed $5,000 towards the cost of a year’s supply of books for 40 Davoren Park children aged five and under, that will be distributed via a partnership between Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and United Way SA.

The partnership delivers an age-appropriate book pack direct to a child’s home each month in the hope that it will improve literacy and inspire a lifelong love of reading. The packs also include tips for parents on how to engage their child with the book, plus a simple craft activity relating to the book using common household items.

According to the latest Australian Early Development Census, Davoren Park has the lowest literacy rate of any suburb within the City of Playford, with one in two children deemed vulnerable or at risk.

Renewal SA Playford Alive Project Director Mark Collins said the housing renewal projects being undertaken in Davoren Park along with the wider masterplanned development of greenfield areas within Playford Alive were designed to help every resident thrive, and that supporting Dolly Parton’s book program was an extension of Renewal SA’s commitment to that cause.

“Playford Alive is first and foremost a people place, so we are always looking for ways to enhance wellbeing, whether that be through great open space or improving job prospects for residents through our Works Program,” Mr Collins said.

“One per cent of every house and/or land sale within Playford Alive goes into the Initiatives Fund and Renewal SA is proud to be able to support this literacy program aimed at helping children get the best possible start.”

Since its inception in Tennessee, USA in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gifted more than 150 million books to children globally.

United Way SA began its affiliation with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 2013 and since then has rolled out the program to nine suburbs in Adelaide’s north.

“We are so grateful to be able to move this program into Davoren Park,” United Way Chief Executive Officer Emma Brooke said.

“We’ve got 100 kids on our waiting list, so every bit of funding we get we try to open up in a new area.

“Not being able to read really does limit you.

“Ninety per cent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years so exposing a child to books and reading early helps support that development which will help a child start school strong with the literacy skills they need to have the opportunity reach their full potential.”

Mrs Brooke said her team had seen marked improvements in school readiness among children who have received Imagination Library books and that the program brought structure and routine to families, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We see every day the lifechanging impact this program has on families,” she said.

“I had the mother of twins crying the other day as she said to her kids ‘you know how we have to take books back to the library? Well, guess what? We don’t have to take these books back’. The kids were just so excited.”

United Way SA aims to get another 150 children onto the program in 2022.

The Playford Alive Initiatives Fund, managed by a Board comprising of representatives from Renewal SA, City of Playford and the SA Housing Authority, has provided more than $730,000 in grants to community groups and not-for-profit organisations since 2009 for projects and initiatives which protect and enhance the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of the local community.

One per cent of each allotment sale within the Playford Alive greenfields area is allocated to the fund by Renewal SA. AV Jennings also contributes 1% of allotment sales at Eyre. SAHA provides $1,000 per allotment sold to the fund.

Playford Alive is one of the largest masterplanned communities under development in Adelaide’s north, encompassing approximately 500 hectares of greenfield land at Munno Para, Andrews Farm and Eyre, and urban renewal projects in Smithfield Plains and Davoren Park. On completion, around 40,000 people will call Playford Alive home. Its diverse mix of housing options makes it attractive to first home buyers, low-income earners, and migrants. Land prices start from $110,000*.

For more information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library visit imaginationlibrary.com/au/ or to apply for a community grant via the Playford Alive Initiatives Fund visit playfordalive.com.au/community/playford-alive-initiatives-fund/

*$110,000 refers to Lot 1156 Easton Road, Davoren Park

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