Cultivate a love of learning with the MONARCH TRAIN

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Courtesy photo Ayden Alderman holds up one of the books that is sent out freely by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Ayden and his mother, Melody, are part of the MONARCH TRAIN which has partnered with the Imagination Library to bring books to kids ages 5 and under in both Shoshone and Kootenai counties.

The MONARCH TRAIN has partnered with the Imagination Library to spread the joy of reading to children in Kootenai and Shoshone counties.

The Imagination Library was founded in 1995 by Dolly Parton, who was inspired by her own father’s illiteracy.

With a goal of cultivating an early love of reading, Parton has grown the Imagination Library on a global scale and has given away more than 1 million books.

Melody Alderman, the president and founder of the MONARCH TRAIN, sees the partnership as a seamless fit for both groups, as well as something that was needed in the area.

“In September of 2017. I was interviewing Dolly Parton for an empowering women feature I was working on as a freelance writer,” Alderman said. “At the time, Dolly was promoting her children’s CD, ‘I Believe in You,’ with proceeds going to her Imagination Library program. My sister was pregnant at the time with my nephew Hunter, so I decided to sign him up for the Imagination Library. It is available to any child under the age of 5. That is when I discovered that the program did not exist in our area.”

Alderman, a former resident of Wallace, moved to Coeur d’Alene with her single mother at the end of her freshman year of high school, so she has always felt that Shoshone County is still part of what she calls home.

“I had always wanted to start a nonprofit to give back to the community I call home,” Alderman said. “This is why it was important to me that we include both Kootenai and Shoshone County in the program. That is how The MONARCH TRAIN came to be.”

The MONARCH TRAIN is an acronym that stands for The Mission of Nicholas and Ayden: Reaching Children’s Hearts Through Reading, Art, Imagination, & Nature.

Nicholas and Ayden are two very influential people in Alderman’s life, Ayden is Alderman’s 11-year-old son and Nicholas was Alderman’s first true love who passed away in 1997 at the young age of 19.

“I met and fell in love with Nick just weeks after my 17th birthday,” Alderman recalled. “He became my everything. He had an empathetic heart, a compassionate soul and a pure love of music. He truly believed that music had the power to change the world. After his death, I pledged to myself that he would never be forgotten and that his beautiful life would not be in vain.”

And while Nicholas’ short life may have propelled Alderman to creating the MONARCH TRAIN, her son has become its lifeblood.

At a very young age, he would walk around complimenting strangers on the street.

When his mom asked him what he was doing, he explained that he was simply filling up people’s buckets.

He added that people have invisible buckets over their heads that carry all of their happiness and some people’s buckets look like they are really empty, so he hoped that by saying something kind to them, their bucket will fill up a little more.

“Ayden is an 11-year-old boy who wants to change the world,” Alderman said. “The MONARCH TRAIN hopes to hold itself to Ayden’s standards by filling up an endless amount of buckets in our community and beyond.”

Partnering with Parton’s Imagination Library is an easy way for the MONARCH TRAIN to achieve one of their core goals in literacy, but they are also focused in helping children become more rounded as they grow up.

“Nick and I shared a belief and that belief is now the foundation of The MONARCH TRAIN. Music, reading and writing can change lives,” Alderman said. “Children who are introduced to music, reading and writing at a young age, can discover their truest selves. They can be given a safe place to escape.”

The very first project that the MONARCH TRAIN is working on is their partnership with the Imagination Library and so far it’s going quite well.

MONARCH TRAIN started signing up kids in June and already has 200 participants in Kootenai and Shoshone counties.

Alderman also plans to add journals and musical instruments to the items that will be supplied to kids at no charge.

Obviously a project of this undertaking requires funding from a vast array of sources and after hitting a homerun with their first local sponsor, Alderman is hoping to get more local businesses on board as well.

There is also a full-circle quality to the initial sponsorship that lends another touch of romance to the history of the MONARCH TRAIN.

“We just received our very first sponsor, Silverwood,” Alderman said. “It is serendipitous because Nick and I worked at Silverwood together in the summer of 1993. It was one of the best memories of my life. It is such a gift that they are our first sponsor. Our hope is that as more local businesses become aware of the program, they will step up financially to help this community gift thrive.”

Registration for the Imagination Library, as well as additional information for the MONARCH TRAIN can be found on their website at

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