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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library book gifting program is expanding throughout Kentucky, state education department officials said Tuesday.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails free, high-quality, age-appropriate books monthly to children from birth until age 5, no matter their family’s income. The Imagination Library of Kentucky is expanding to all 120 counties with dollar match funding from Kentucky state lawmakers and the Kentucky Department of Education.
Community programs raise 50 percent and the state matches 50 percent. As more children enroll, community programs must raise more funds to keep the momentum going and ensure that every child in every zip code is eligible to register for free books. The goal is to eventually offer the program in every part of the state, officials said.
Currently, Kentucky has 90 programs covering portions of 76 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Only 15 percent of eligible children in the state are receiving books through community Imagination Library programs, state officials said.
“I’m so excited and want to thank everyone partnering with us to make more dreams come true for children and families in Kentucky,” Parton said in a news release.
The Imagination Library of Kentucky expansion will focus on reaching more children and families to increase registration in existing Imagination Library Programs in the state and will find community partners to start new Imagination Library programs in Kentucky.
“Exposing a child to books and reading is significant to their success in academics and life,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library puts books in the hands of children at a young age, opening the doors to possibilities. At KDE, we are excited to be a part of expanding the Imagination Library across Kentucky to reach more children, because all children should have access to books and doors that they can open.”
During the 2021 legislative session, $800,000 was appropriated for the expansion in this fiscal year only, according to education department spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman. The Kentucky Department of Education asked the Dollywood Foundation to take the lead in establishing and implementing the statewide program.
The Imagination Library of Kentucky is the newly formed statewide organization focused on overseeing the expansion for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for communities across the state. The Imagination of Library of Kentucky’s role is to promote, grow and sustain local Imagination Library programs in all 120 counties in Kentucky.
Since 2001, 3.4 million books have been delivered in Kentucky, and 42,012 Kentucky children are currently receiving books, a website for the Kentucky effort said.
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a voluntary program. Through the Imagination Library, parents can sign up to receive a new book each month at no cost.
“I’m very excited about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Kentucky. One of the most important things we can do to improve early literacy is to give our children access to books,” said Kentucky Education Associate Commissioner Gretta Hylton. “Learning to read and write starts earlier than kindergarten or first grade. We are proud to provide our earliest learners in Kentucky with the resources to prepare them for future school success.”