Year in Review 2022

January 1–December 31, 2022

A Letter from the Leader

Every year, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation chooses a guiding word, a concept that directs our focus as an organization throughout the year. Our word in 2022 was refinement. After three years of unprecedented growth (from serving 286k children annually in 2019 to 600k in 2021), we turned our attention to strengthening our programs and elevating how we do them. In 2022, we:

  • Began gathering more program-related data to better evaluate impact
  • Bolstered our Educator Advisory Council with more structure and oversight responsibilities
  • Created and filled a full-time management position for the SELECT initiative
  • Streamlined communication among Imagination Library county affiliates and enhanced regional roundtables to support affiliate leadership
  • Strengthened relationships with partners and vendors, including establishing an inventory and fulfillment vendor
  • Integrated our CRM and accounting software to strengthen stewardship
  • Updated our strategic plan (after achieving our last one two years early!)
  • Developed an internal calendar of communication campaigns
  • Established robust internal processes to ensure staff effectiveness and exemplary stewardship of resources

As any engineer will tell you, refining takes a lot of focused work, but it pays off. With these tools and processes now at our disposal, we are well-positioned to make even more impact toward our mission to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee…because it all comes back to that. It all comes back to the children we serve, giving them resources and support to strengthen early literacy, because reading enables learning and learning enables lifelong success.

We sincerely thank all the individuals and organizations who make our work possible. Together we are changing lives – one book, one family, and one child at a time!

    James Pond
    Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation

    The Voices of our Co‑Authors

    Tennessee has prioritized historic investments that put students first, ensuring every student has the resources needed to become a strong reader and reach their full potential. The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation is a valuable partner in serving Tennessee’s young learners, and I commend their work.

     Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

    Throughout its seventeen-year history, Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation has built a reputation for putting the early literacy needs of  Tennessee children first. Over the past year, having this priority in clear focus has led the Foundation to incredible achievements through programs and initiatives that have reached hundreds of thousands of families. It is my privilege to be a part of this journey, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this responsive, steadily-growing organization.

    Dr. Nancy Dishner
    GELF Board Chair


    Functional Expenses



    56% – Birth5 Book Delivery
    29% – K–3 Home Library
    7% – Caregiver Engagement
    1% – Book Bus
    0.30% – Storybook Trails
    0.26% – SELECT & Special Events





    Special Activities

    1. Tennessee Titans Rookies Made Community Debut with GELF Story Time

    2. Granted Waverly Schools’ Holiday Wish List to Rebuild Libraries Destroyed by Flooding

    3. Bridged the Gap Behind Bars with Books for Incarcerated Parents & Their Children

    Initiative Impact

    Book Delivery program logo, girl with book at mailbox

    Birth–5 Book Delivery

    Delivering books each month to children from birth to age five, through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to foster a love of reading at an early age

    Birth-5 Book Delivery
    Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

    Books Delivered to Date

    Books Delivered in 2022

    Children Enrolled


    Statewide Enrollment as of Dec 2022

    2022 Enrollment Partnership Stats

    Books Mailed to Children Enrolled through TN Department of Human Services

    Books Mailed to Children Enrolled through TN Department of Children’s Services

    K-3 Summer Reading logo, children of different ages reading outside school

    K–3 Home Library

    Delivering quality books and literacy resources to combat learning loss and support student learning in the home

    K–3 Home Library

    (formerly K–3 Book Delivery)



    School Districts

    Books Delivered

    Our Report Card
    Our Report Card
    of caregivers reported liking the books and using them in the home
    of teachers reported referencing or using the books during instruction
    of students reported liking the books and using them in the home

    I like getting more books for my classroom but mostly for students at home to receive books. Many of our students do not have access to books at home so this is a great program to get books into students’ hands.

     A Morgan County Educator

    The program is great because my son received different books than he would have normally selected. That exposes him to a larger variety, and helps him hone in on his interests and discover things besides graphic novels to enjoy.

     A Robertson County Caregiver

    My son really enjoyed these books to the point of requesting more books on his own and wanting to pick them out himself, which is new for us. Thank you for this program!

    A Tennessee Parent

    K-3 Summer Reading logo, children of different ages reading outside school

    Educator Advisory Council

    A group of  Tennessee educators who serve as a consulting body to help GELF determine the best resources to meet the literacy needs of K–3 students across Tennessee

    Educator Advisory Council

    Council Members

    School Districts in which Members Serve

    Total Years of Experience

    Caregiver Engagement logo

    Caregiver Engagement

    Equipping caregivers to be deeply engaged as a child’s first teacher

    Caregiver Engagement



    School Districts & Charter Schools

    Caregiver Feedback
    Caregiver Feedback
    reported doing at least one activity per week
    say that the activities helped grow their children's literacy skills
    experienced an increase in confidence to support their children's learning

    It helps me tremendously with my 7-year-old son. We need tricks to keep him learning. Your texts offer that!!! Please keep them coming.

     A McMinn County Caregiver

    I appreciate the encouragement and timing; I don’t have to wait for someone else to teach; I can take the initiative to teach and gain satisfaction by sitting back and thinking, “I taught him that!”

    A Johnson County Parent

    Book Bus logo, child exiting book bus

    Book Bus

    Establishing mobile libraries to provide children and communities with access to high-quality literacy resources

    Book Buses

    Active Buses

    Newly Supported Buses in 2022

    School Districts

    While exploring books, a soon-to-be kindergartener found a one about motor vehicles and pulled me onto the floor to tell me everything he knew about them. Seeing him smile as he, a 4-or 5-year-old, was able to teach me, a 27-year-old, something new was priceless.

    A Unicoi County Educator

    Mrs. Mary (Book Bus Aide) helped me find the books I like. She even saved other books from the same series for my brother and I. We can’t always check out the whole series in the library at school, and now they are ours.

    A Tennessee Student

    Storybook Trail logo, child with caregiver at storybook trail

    Storybook Trail

    Collaborating to create outdoor reading experiences where families interact through literacy and physical activity

    Storybook Trails

    Active Trails

    Newly Supported Trails in 2022


    My girls love Storybook Trails! We love reading and the outdoors, so it’s a perfect activity for our family. It’s a great way to read a story and burn off a little energy at the same time. I also really appreciate that it’s something that both my 4 year old and my 1.5 year old can enjoy.

     A Nashville Parent

    Book Bus logo, child exiting book bus

    Statewide Early Literacy Education Collaborative of Tennessee

    A collaborative conversation for Tennessee’s early literacy leaders to explore, learn, and connect around a shared vision to build a brighter future for children



    Partner Organizations

    Counties Represented


    reported gathering with this group valuable

    I loved hearing what groups and individuals in the other parts of the state are doing. It helped me to think of ways that we are or aren’t supporting literacy in our region. It gave me ideas of things we can or need to do. It also made me realize that in other parts of the state there is an organization that is especially the “champion” of literacy. I don’t think we have that in the 1st congressional district. We are doing things but they are disjointed rather than to achieve a common goal. I believe we are headed in that direction…as we begin to have a more focused effort. This event really inspired and invigorated me!

    Karin Keith
    East Tennessee State University

    Thank You to Our Corporate Partners!

    Our Governor’s Circle partners help us address key literacy needs to build lifelong learners statewide.






    Thank You to Our Storyteller Society!


    Individuals inspiring the literacy legacy for Tennessee’s next generation

    • Burton Jablin


    Individuals writing Tennessee’s early literacy story

    • Mark and Cathy Cate
    • Margaret F. Rappaport


    Individuals bringing the vision for early literacy in Tennessee to life

    • Gregory and Brenda Duckett
    • Andrea Willis, M.D.
    • Anonymous


    Individuals empowering literacy and lifelong learning

    • Nancy and Harold Dishner
    • Carol and Howard Kirshner
    • Susan and Richard Mattson
    • Phil Wenk, M.D.

    GELF Board

    Denine Torr

    Board Chair (2021)

    Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy
    Dollar General Corporation

    Parul Bajaj

    Board Vice Chair (2021)

    Senior Manager Philanthropy
    Nissan North America

    Dr. Nancy Disher

    Board Secretary (2021)

    President & CEO
    Niswonger Foundation

    Jennifer Colquitt

    Executive Assistant
    Frist Family

    Jeff Ballard

    Chief Financial Officer
    Delta Dental of Tennessee

    Gregory M. Duckett

    Senior Vice President
    & Chief Legal Officer

    Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation

    Judge Brandon Gibson

    Senior Advisor
    Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
    State of Tennessee

    Danielle Whitworth Barnes

    Ernst & Young, LLP

    GELF Staff

    James Pond


    Dean Hoskins

    Vice President

    Claire Jones

    Communications Manager

    Paige Atchley Shapiro

    Senior Program Manager

    Abigail Sanderson

    Development Director

    Jacob Edwards

    Program Manager
    Birth–5 Initiatives

    Joe Strausbaugh

    Data Manager

    Judi Hankins Davis

    Regional Consultant
    Birth–5 Book Delivery Program

    Chad Carter

    Executive Operations Manager