by Melanie Kozlowski, Early Literacy Librarian, and Kelly Pemrick, local Imagination Library Coordinator
Just last week, it became official. Our Library is now an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. Dolly’s amazing vision is ready to bring books, joy and learning into the homes, hands, and hearts of every child under 5 in our mountain valley. Picture a child’s delight in discovering a brand-new high-quality book—with their name—mailed to them each month
We adults know Dolly as a renowned singer, songwriter, actress, producer, businesswoman, humorist, and humanitarian. Our newest generation will know Dolly as perhaps the world’s most famous librarian.
Growing up, Dolly Parton remembers being “dirt poor.” Her father was hard-working, but tough circumstances never gave him the opportunity to read or write. Many years later, Dolly was motivated to make sure kids have access to books in the way she wished her father could have had. In 1995, she started the Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee.
“We just started this in my home county,” she remembers. “We thought, ‘Well, maybe if we’re lucky it might go a couple counties over.’”
By 2000, the program was so successful it was being replicated nationwide. Today, it has mailed well over a million books to kids in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.
Thanks to this inspiring program, we’re ready to sign up every local child under five—including newborns. Those are vital years: 90% of all brain structure development takes place before age 5. Kids who aren’t read to hear only around 4,600 words. Kids who are read to daily have heard almost 300,000.
Once kids are signed up, they’ll start getting high-quality books matched to their age level. The books are carefully chosen by a panel of learning experts. And the first book they receive is always “The Little Engine that Could”.
It’s a perfect fit for the Library’s mission and Operating Plan, with its strong focus on local childhood literacy.
There is no cost to families. The local program is made possible by two sources: 50% from Imagination Library Colorado (with funding from the State of Colorado) which has provided us tremendous guidance and encouragement. Another 50% is from a generous anonymous local donor, who worked with our Library Friends & Foundation to pursue this passion.
“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is one of the most precious things,” says Dolly Parton. “If you’re lucky and fortunate enough to be in a position to help, you should help.”
We are so honored to expand the footprint of Dolly’s vision to our special corner of the world.