Bill O’Donnell serves as Early Literacy Coordinator for the North Carolina Partnership for Children.  He coordinates the statewide implementation of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and Reach out and Read initiatives.  He has a passion for literacy at all levels.

Bill recently moved back to North Carolina from Tennessee where he worked as Coordinator of Instructional Advocacy with the Tennessee Education Association.  Prior to working for TEA, he served as government relations specialist for the North Carolina School Boards Association and also taught English as a Second Language and Language Arts at the elementary, middle, and                                                             high school levels.

He Holds a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Vanderbilt University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel hill, and a Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University.

Annual Meeting 2017

The annual meeting of the Partnership for Children of Wayne County on Thursday was patterned after the message in the popular children’s book about the little engine that could.

Copies served as the centerpiece at each table at Lane Tree Conference Center, representative of a new initiative which kicked off this week and the Partnership’s mission — to serve the youngest segment of the population, from birth to 5 years old.

“Literacy for our youngest citizens has been a major objective all across this state,” said Charlie Ivey, executive director of the Partnership.

The non-profit recently learned it would be the recipient of $61,000 in potential funding to provide books for young children over the next two years.

During the latest legislative session of the N.C. General Assembly, lawmakers included $3.5 million for the first year of the budget and $7 million for the second year for the Smart Start network to offer free books to children through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“The goal is to reach 50,000 children served statewide and potentially 100,000 more in this fiscal year,” said the morning’s keynote speaker, Bill O’Donnell, early literacy coordinator with N.C. Partnership for Children. “Dolly’s vision is to have books in the hands of children birth to 5 no matter where they live.

“The goal is to have books in the homes, in doctor’s offices and just to expose kids to as many books as possible.”

North Carolina is the second state doing this statewide, he said, with Tennessee being the first.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, or DPIL, was created to foster a love of reading among children. It provides books free of charge to families. Once registered, the child receives an age-appropriate book delivered to them each month.

The local Partnership received 2,000 slots to enroll children. It has the potential to provide 60 books for each child from birth to age 5, Ivey said.

Already, though, he said the need exceeds what is available.

“There are over 8,500 children in Wayne County from birth to 5,” he said. “That 2,000 will only scratch the surface.”

The agency is working to publicize DPIL, starting earlier this week and already gaining traction.

He said his staff put the word out on social media on Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday morning, 250 had already registered their child.

To learn more about DPIL or register a child, he said to visit their Facebook page or the website www.pfcw.org.

Ivey also recognized two staff members for years of service.

Valerie Wallace, assistant executive director, has been with the agency for 16 years and is an expert on “child care, education and development, backwards and forwards,” Ivey said. Michelle Chambers, program accountability manager was acknowledged for her 15 years of service with the Partnership.

Then he reflected on the past year, which kicked off with a hurricane.

“Last October, we had a visitor named Matthew,” he said. “While most of the county was waiting to see the river rise, we didn’t have to wait — the night it rained 13 inches in Goldsboro, 4 to 6 inches came into the Partnership.

“We came into a mess. For the next four months, we were trying to find out how we were going to repair all the damage.”

Staff diligently worked on the cleanup, and the first word of the agency’s name was again personified in the surrounding community — partnership.

From affiliations with Wayne County Public Schools and Wayne Community College to WAGES and the United Way, the Partnership for Children has been able to move on and become bigger and stronger, Ivey said. Programs like Incredible Years and Hispanic Efforts have been expanded, and the agency helped promote the county’s agriculture.

One of the big highlights over the past year was the fundraiser, “Touch a Truck,” which drew more than 2,000 parents and children to the fairgrounds to expose little ones to the variety of vehicles in an array of areas.

“We’re a thriving supportive organization for Wayne County,” Ivey said.

He said part of the group’s mission is to work with families as well as child care centers, recognizing that all the programs cost money and funding is needed to keep them solvent.

At the same time, he said he recently came away from a conference with a new approach to the topic.

“We’re not asking for donations,” he said. “We’re asking for investment — investment into our greatest resources, our youngest citizens.”

Moore, P. (2017, November 17) Serving the youngest population. Retrieved from  The Goldsboro News-Argus http://www.newsargus.com/news/archives/2017/11/17/serving_the_youngest_population/