If you know someone with a baby on the way, do them a big favor by encouraging them to sign up that little bundle of joy for its very first book club. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library gives free books to kids, and participating will certainly brighten your day. The Imagination Library a great way to start building your favorite child's home library — for free!
Founded in 1995, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has delivered more than 98 million books to 1.2 million children in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and Ireland. The program provides participating kids with "free, high-quality books," one per month, from birth through age five. There are no income requirements for families who wish to participate, and families who require braille or audiobooks may receive them for no extra charge.
Begun strictly as a means of delivering books to young children in Parton's home territory of Sevier County, Tennessee, the Imagination Library saw its most recent development in 2017, when Tennessee drivers were finally able to purchase official Dolly Parton license plates, the sales of which go to benefit the singer and actress' book club. Today, Parton's early literacy program distributes 1 million books each month to children across the world.
Children enrolled in the Imagination Library program receive one book each month until their fifth birthdays. According to the book club's website, "[t]he first book a child receives is 'The Little Engine That Could™' (customized version). The month a child turns five years old, they will receive 'Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!' (customized version)." In 2017, the Imagination Library's roster of books for U.S. kids included Sassy: Bedtime for Baby by Dave Aikins, Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney, My No, No, No Day by Rebecca Patterson, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, among dozens of other titles.
So how does The Dollywood Foundation manage to fund Dolly Parton's Imagination Library every year? The book club for kids partners with interested individuals, organizations, businesses, and charities — known as "Local Champions" in Imagination Library lingo — across the world, who help defer distribution costs each month. Those Local Champions promote awareness about the Imagination Library program, help to enroll children in their respective areas, and secure funding. In the U.S., Local Champions are responsible for paying $2.10 per child, per month, which goes toward the Imagination Library's wholesale purchase and mailing costs.
If your area does not participate in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program, consider becoming a Local Champion yourself. A step-by-step guide, complete with suggested financial backers, is available on the Imagination Library website.