NASHVILLE — Know the children's book "Boom Chicka Rock"? Lynne Beery does -- almost word for word.
The day it arrived in the mail as part of the Imagination Library program, her 4-year-old daughter, Heavenly, asked her mom to read it 25 times. That's more than 25 refrains of "Boom chicka rock, chicka rock, chicka boom!"
But Beery is not complaining. She likes having that time with her daughter, who has Down syndrome. Each month, when a new book arrives, the little girl has the same reaction: "She'll open the mailbox, grab it and jump on the couch with the book. I have to stop whatever I'm doing and read right then."
The excitement is a big reason for the growing popularity of Imagination Library, a children's literacy program started 10 years ago by country singer Dolly Parton in her native east Tennessee.
The program now is in 572 communities in 41 states. This year, Tennessee became the first to take it statewide.
Sharyl Emberton of the National Center for Family Literacy in Louisville, Ky., said Imagination Library is well-structured, relatively inexpensive and -- judging by what she hears from parents and educators -- effective. "We've worked with other literacy programs that put books in families' hands, but in my opinion this one is the best," she said.
Children who sign up are mailed one free book a month from birth to age 5, regardless of family income. The books are chosen by a committee of specialists and are age-appropriate.
In Tennessee, the cost is $27 per child, with half the money coming from the state through matching grants and the rest from the communities, whether local governments, businesses or civic clubs.