Young readers get head start

STANWOOD — Shelly Greer came home from Canada last summer with the goal of giving books to every young child in her community.

Two months later, she died from liver cancer.

Her dream lives on.

More than 200 children in Stanwood and on Camano Island are getting free books each month from the Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by legendary country singer Dolly Parton. The book program is officially called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

In Stanwood, they’re calling it Shelly’s Library, in honor of the longtime local educator who founded the Saratoga School Family Learning Center in Stanwood in 2004.

“She was absolutely passionate about reading, so we’re doing this in memory of her,” said Theresa Metzger of the Stanwood Camano Rotary Club, which is sponsoring the program.

Children up to 5 years old are eligible to participate in Shelly’s Library. There are no income requirements. Bilingual books are available for children whose families do not speak English as their primary language.

Shelly Greer learned about the Dollywood Foundation’s program last year during a Rotary convention in Canada, said Terry Greer, her husband. She told others about the program when she got home.

Soon after, doctors found cancer in Shelly Greer’s liver. She died about a month later at the age of 57.

Rotary Club members picked up where she left off.

Shelly was convinced the free-book program would help children succeed in school, all the way through adulthood, Terry Greer said. After years of teaching kindergarten, Shelly could tell whether children read or were read to at home, he said.

“If they entered behind, she found it was hard for them to catch up,” Terry Greer said. “The foundation of literacy happens at those very young ages.”

Heather Crosby of Camano Island signed up with Shelly’s Library to get books for her 1-year-old son, Aidan. Each night, after Aidan’s bath, she sits in a rocking chair in his room, with Aidan on her lap, and reads to him.

So far, Aidan has received the books “The Little Engine That Could” and “The Mine-o-saur,” a tale about sharing.

“Reading is important for every child, rich or poor,” Crosby said.

The Rotary club is seeking partnerships and donations to keep the program going. The cost of providing a year’s worth of books to a child is about $27, Metzger said.

Shelly Greer would be thrilled, and honored, to see the program up and running, Terry Greer said.

“She understood the importance of reading to young children before they entered school,” he said. “Her focus was always on early childhood education.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or

How to donate

Donations for Shelly’s Library can be sent to Stanwood-Camano Rotary, P.O. Box 1754, Stanwood, WA, 98292.

Checks must be made out to the Dollywood Foundation, with “Shelly’s Library” written in the memo line.

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