In Praise of Dolly Parton and the Imagination Library

January 19th is Dolly Parton’s birthday, and as a fellow Tennessean, I consider her a book hero. She founded the Imagination Library in 1995, twenty-five years ago. Since then, the organization has sent more than 130 million books to 1.5 million children. At first, the nonprofit provided books for children under 5 only in Parton’s hometown of Sevier County, TN, and then it moved to all of TN and to the rest of the United States, and now it provides books for children in the UK, Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Ireland. If you’re not already receiving free children’s books from the Imagination Library, check here to see if you qualify. It’s for children five and under.

Marian received her first Imagination Library book on August 2, 2018, when she was eight months old, before we’d even started Baby Librarians! The first book is always the same–The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Marian thought it was quite tasty. 🙂 Since then, we’ve received a book in the mail every 3 months or so. Thanks to the Imagination Library, we were introduced to Llama Llama Red Pajama, which has since become a favorite series. I have that book memorized, and to calm her down during crying fits during her first year or so, my husband and I would recite it to her. It’s the book we read more than any other, and I’ve had to buy several additional copies when Marian ripped through them!


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So far, these have been Marian’s favorite books from the Imagination Library:

Clearly, Anna Dewdney’s books are a big hit with Marian, but she also enjoys counting, the ABCs, colors, and feelings. Marian is now at the point where she thinks books always come in the mail, though, admittedly, that’s because publishers send us books too.

Protip–when you receive your Imagination Library book, immediately peel off the sticker. It’s so much easier if you do it right then!

Studies show that the closer children are to books, the better they perform in school. Even beyond school performance, another study found that teenagers who were readers yet never went to college had the same skills as nonreaders with university degrees. Reading to children in their early years is so important, and fun!, yet children’s books, as we all know, are quite expensive. The Imagination Library is trying to bridge the gap between income and children’s home libraries, while also providing fun and age-appropriate reading material.

If you’re interested in donating to the nonprofit, there are several ways to do so, and don’t forget to sign up for your child!

Do you have a favorite Imagination Library book?

Marian with imagination library books

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Dolly Parton and the Imagination Library”

  1. As the author of One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me, I am delighted to hear that my book is one of Marian’s favorites from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It’s a wonderful program, and I am proud that my book is included as a selection. Happy reading!

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