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Delta Dental Awards "Bigger Smiles" Grants to Imagination Library Programs

In partnership with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF), Delta Dental of Tennessee invests in local Imagination Library to help fund 861 books mailed monthly Bolivar, Tenn. – (January 17, 2019) – Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) is partnering with Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) to award “Bigger Smiles” challenge grants to Imagination Library programs in select Tennessee counties, including Hardeman County. Delta Dental has supported GBBF, in partnership with Tennessee’s Imagination Library (IL), since its inception in 2004, recognizing the statewide program’s early literacy impact on health, education and workforce development.

Managed by local volunteers, Hardeman County Imagination Library gives all children, from birth to age five in Hardeman County, the opportunity to receive one high-quality, age-appropriate book each month in the mail—at no cost to families. Fifty-seven percent of the county’s total eligible population, 861 children, are enrolled in the program and receive books monthly.

The IL is available to all age-eligible Tennessee children through a unique, public-private partnership with GBBF, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and affiliate programs in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. With vital financial support from the Tennessee General Assembly, foundations, and corporate sponsors, GBBF funds half the cost of books for enrolled children in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Each local county affiliate promotes the program in its community and raises funds for the other half of the cost of books and mailing for enrolled children in their county.

Delta Dental has invested more than $750,000 in GBBF’s statewide IL program, which has mailed over 35 million books to Tennessee children since 2004. Through “Bigger Smiles Grants,” Delta Dental provides local IL affiliates with funds to help cover the cost of books and mailing for enrolled children in their county.

“We know the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation positively impacts the literacy level of young Tennesseans and we proudly support their efforts across the state with Bigger Smiles Grants,” said Dr. Phil Wenk, President and CEO, Delta Dental and board member for Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.

Research shows that a child’s brain grows to 80 percent by age three and builds 700 connections per second, creating a critically important window of opportunity for language development. Giving children early access to books and reading significantly improves vocabulary, cognitive skills and supports the foundation for early literacy skills from birth.

Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of high school. Tennessee studies show that IL participants outperform non-participants on academic assessments in kindergarten through early grades. Further, these students are more likely to regularly attend school and are less likely to be suspended.

Dolly Parton created the IL program in 1996 as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn. In 2004, former Gov. Phil Bredesen established GBBF to provide financial and administrative support for affiliate IL programs, expanding the program statewide.

With over 861 books now being mailed to enrolled children in Hardeman County, the monthly shared cost allocated to Hardeman County Imagination Library exceeds $890. Here's how you can help the program continue to serve more children: To volunteer or get involved, contact Monroe Woods, Hardeman County Imagination Library Coordinator, at or 731-376-0264. To donate online, go to Be sure to specify Hardeman County to designate your donation to the local program. Enroll your child at For tips on reading with your child, visit

Delta Dental of Tennessee Good oral health is essential to a healthy life and Delta Dental makes taking care of your smile easy with access to care, comprehensive benefits, exceptional service, and superior value. To best serve our mission and create more smiles, we created the Smile180 Foundation which supports Tennessee’s dental colleges, children’s hospitals, free and reduced-cost community dental clinics, and other like-minded charities. Delta Dental is the largest independent dental benefits provider in the state with more than 2,000 employer groups representing more than 1.25 million Tennesseans. To unleash your smile power, choose Delta Dental. Visit

Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) The core mission of GBBF is to promote early childhood literacy in Tennessee’s birth to age five population. Founded in 2004, GBBF sustains and strengthens Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in all 95 Tennessee counties, ensuring that new, age-appropriate books are mailed to Tennessee’s preschool children, at no cost to the family and regardless of income. To learn how to support your county’s program, or for information on how to register a child, visit or, or call toll-free at (877) 99-BOOKS.

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