NBC4 New York Anchor/Reporter Shiba Russell and Literacy Champion Award recipients David Dotson, president of the Dollywood Foundation on behalf of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Richard Robinson, President and CEO of Scholastic Inc.

*On Thursday, May 10, 2012, scores of scholars made a whirl of difference at the always smart Reach Out and Read of Greater New York (ROR-GNY) annual bookish benefit & auction at the educational historic The Museum Club at Bridgewaters atop the Fulton Market Building at the South Street Seaport offering sweeping views of the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge and the tall ships docked at the Seaport in the East River.

Themed “A World of Possibilities,” the scholarly event – hosted by NBC4 New York anchor Shiba Russell — featured a cocktail reception, silent and live auctions, awards and delicious finger foods.  While enjoying butlered hors d’oeuvres and tasty morsels of delightful appetizers from several specialty food stations guests moved to the beat of live steel pan music from the pulsating Steel Impressions band.

Ace auctioneer Patrick Tully presided over a live auction that had guests zestfully bidding on unique items such as a gift certificate for a new pair of shoes each month from Lord & Taylor; a library of 200 classic children’s books for your child or your child’s school; vacations; Broadway tickets; baseball tickets; jewelry; handbags; dinner; wine and beauty packages.

This year’s recipients of the Literacy Champion Awards were Richard Robinson, chairman of the board, president and CEO, Scholastic Inc., presented by Karine Apollon; and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, an initiative that sends children a new book in the mail each month, presented by Eileen FitzPatrick. David Dotson, president of the Dollywood Foundation, accepted the award on behalf of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Richard Robinson has been president and CEO of Scholastic since the 1970s, leading the global children’s publishing, education and media company that is known as a staple of nearly everyone’s childhood whether for its Book Clubs, Book Fairs, Scholastic News classroom magazines or as U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series. Under Robinson’s leadership, Scholastic has become the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and children’s media with such renowned brands as Clifford the Big Red Dog, I Spy, The Magic School Bus® and Goosebumps.

The company is a market leader in educational technology and related services for reading instruction with its groundbreaking program, READ 180. Today, Scholastic, whose mission is helping all children learn and love to read, has 9,800 employees worldwide with operations in 16 countries and annual revenue of $2 billion. Scholastic has been a proud supporter of Read Out and Read since 1997, providing quality children’s books for distribution to the children who need them most and are so well served by the effective network of Reach Out and Read sites.


Reach Out and Read of Greater New York staff members at 2012 benefit gala: Emma Ertinger, regional site coordinator consultant; Karen Preuss, director of development; Traci Lester, executive director; and Asari Beale, communications manager

In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

Dolly’s Imagination Library became so popular that in the year 2000 she announced that she would make the program available for replication to any community that was willing to partner with her to support it locally. Since the initial program launch in the United States, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gone from just a few dozen books to nearly 40,000,000 books mailed to children in the United States, into Canada and across the proverbial pond into the United Kingdom! Currently over 1600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 700,000 children each and every month.

From every child’s first book, The Little Engine That Could, to their last book on their 5th birthday, Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come, each book is carefully selected by a panel of professionals. The Imagination Library is intentionally composed with each book leading to the next. For those children 3 and older, every book has title-specific reading tips for the parents to help them maximize their reading experience.

Above all else, Dolly’s Imagination Library is about making books a joyful experience. The seeds we are sowing now will blossom into a lifelong love of learning and inspire all children to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More.

“Our 2012 Literacy Champion Award recipients are each dedicated to providing children with high quality books that ignite the imagination.  This year we also recognize the service of three exemplary members of our board of directors who, together, represent 368 years of dedicated work toward promotion early literacy to New York’s families,” commented ROR-GNY executive director Traci Lester.

“Join us in recognizing these heroes of literacy, and, whenever you can, share a book with a child in your life.  The possibilities are endless,” added Jack E. Pace III, Esq., ROR-GNY chair, board of directors.  Attorney Pace presented special board recognition awards to long-time board members Kathleen Collins, Eileen FitzPatrick and Leora Mogilner, MD.

The event was attended by guests from the industries of publishing, entertainment, and public health, and raised money to support children’s literacy in New York.  Miss USA Alyssa Campanella made a special appearance.

The benefit committee was manned by co-chairs Karine Apollon, vice president & general manager, Scholastic Classroom and Community Group, and Eileen FitzPatrick, founding board member, ROR-GNY; and auction chair, People StyleWatch editor Susan Kaufman.  The event was exceptionally produced by The Lawrence Company Events.

In addition to Lester and Pace, other ROR-GNY senior staff members attending the event included Karen Preuss, director of development, Asari Beale, communications manager, and Emma Ertinger, regional site coordinator consultant.

ROR-GNY profoundly thanks their lead sponsors: Scholastic Inc. (chapter book); Barnes & Noble, Inc., Scholastic Book Club & Nickelodeon (picture book); Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, The Morrison & Foerster Foundation, Penguin Young Readers Group & PricewaterhouseCoopers (pop-up book); Vincent & Eileen FitzPatrick, Kings Country Hospital Center, Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Helen Mills & Gary Tannenbaum and Jack E Pace III, Esq. (board book).

ROR-GNY is the  Rx for reading and distributes books to over a quarter of a million children annually at more than 180 Reach Out and Read clinical locations throughout New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties..

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based, national nonprofit organization that prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.  Reach Out and Read currently serves one-third of the most impoverished children in the United States.  The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention.

This year, Reach Out and Read’s 28,460 volunteer doctors and nurse practitioners will provide 6.4 million new books to 3.9 million children at 4,779 healthcare locations in all 50 states.  For further information, please visit Reach Out and Read’s website at   (Photos by Gerald Peart)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j. bernard

Audrey J. Bernard