Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Doncaster Council ends Dolly Parton book scheme

Dolly Parton
Image caption Dolly Parton, pictured reading a book for CBeebies Bedtime Stories, brought the scheme to the UK in 2007

Doncaster Council has been accused of "letting children down" for announcing the end of a reading project started by the singer Dolly Parton.

The scheme sends children under the age of five a free book to read each month.

An email to parents said the Dolly Parton Imagination Library would come to an end in Doncaster in September following a review of library services.

The council said it was a "difficult decision" after trying to find alternative funding arrangements.

External funding for the scheme, provided by the Schools Forum, ended after three years and was worth about £678,000, according to the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The decision impacts about 12,000 families including those on the waiting list. 

Daniella Laffey, who uses the service with her three-year-old daughter, started a petition calling on the council to reverse the decision.

"It feels like they're letting our children down," she said.

"I know Nottingham Council and other groups have found ways to keep this going through charities so I don't understand why Doncaster seems to have thrown the towel in so quickly."

The US country star set up the international programme in the UK back in 2007.

Diane Hudson, who signed the petition, posted: "This is a lifeline to children and it really helps with their reading growth especially for those parents who can barely afford to feed their children never mind buy them a book."

Riana Nelson, interim director of education at Doncaster Council, said: "Following the recommendations from a full review of the literacy offer across the borough, the decision to close the Imagination Library was made.

"We have explored a number of alternative external funding options to allow us to continue the scheme but unfortunately this has not been possible at this time."

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