NEWTON - The Leadership Academy for Catawba County, in collaboration with the Catawba County Partnership for Children, has launched a community project to boost early childhood literacy and increase local children’s access to books. The program kick-off takes place at the Main Library in Newton (115 West C St.) at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10.

The Leadership Academy and the Partnership for Children are seeking to build participation in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that mails each enrolled child a free, age-appropriate book monthly until the child turns 5. Books are currently delivered to more than 5,000 children in Catawba County each month, reaching more than half of the early childhood population.

The 2019 Leadership Academy’s community project is installing 12 Little Free Libraries in well-traveled, highly visible locations to encourage families to grab a free book and take the opportunity to be enrolled in the free Imagination Library program. Little Free Libraries are free-standing, weather-resistant wooden boxes that house books and will be located throughout the county, including in the following locations: Southside Park in Newton, Conover Park, the Hickory Foundation YMCA, the Ross Centre in Hickory, Honey’s IGA in Vale, Walmart in Hickory, the Corner Table Soup Kitchen in Newton, Centro Latino in Hickory, and the Partnership for Children in Hickory.

The boxes are currently being painted and customized by select artists and will be installed later this fall. They will be cared for by the Leadership Academy until January 2020 and will then be maintained by the Catawba County Partnership for Children.

The Little Free Libraries program has been supported by the Rotary Club of Newton-Conover, Taco Boss of Maiden, the Hickory Housing Authority, Nu-Dimensions, the Local Government Federal Credit Union, Ladies in Action, Inc., Vintage City Church, the board for the Catawba County Partnership for Children, the Rotary Club of Catawba Valley, and the Leadership Academy of Catawba County.

The Catawba County Partnership for Children is a nonprofit organization that serves as a hub for early childhood initiatives, blending state Smart Start funds, NC Pre-Kindergarten funds, grants, local donations, and corporate sponsorships to provide a variety of essential services to young children and their families.

The Leadership Academy for Catawba County is a year-long, intensive course of study for emerging leaders. The program identifies leadership potential in county employees and develops it through academic modules, professional development activities, book studies, team-building activities, and a team project assignment. Through an application process, nominees are approved and screened by a selection committee.

For more details about the initiative or the Leadership Academy, contact Michelle Orr at or 828-465-9494.

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