- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Through bedtime stories and reading together as a family, children grow imaginations and learn more about the world.
To provide families with more opportunities to bond over a good book, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends free books to children from birth to 5 years old.
“A child that is signed up from birth to their 5th birthday would have 60 books in their library,” said Shea Foldvary, president and CEO of United Way of Fort Smith Are. “It’s vital to the education of a child and brain development growth of a child to be able, even if they can’t read, to be read aloud to.”
Dolly Parton, singer, songwriter and humanitarian, first started the program in 1995 “to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA … [and] to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month,” according to Dolly Parton Imagination Library’s website. As of 2021, the organization has gifted over 172 million books worldwide.
Residents in Crawford, Franklin, Logan and Sebastian counties can sign up for the program through United Way of Fort Smith Area. If signed up between birth and five years old, they will receive books based on their current age until they turn 5.
About 2,200 kids are currently registered for the program in Sebastian County.
Every year, the Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee evaluates the books for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to make sure they are quality and age-appropriate.
“When they first join the program, they’re going to get "The Little Engine that Could,” said Carrie Terry, resource development director for United Way of Fort Smith Area. “It’s their welcome book. After that, they’ll get all age-appropriate books ... Those change every year.”
“There are two bilingual books that they’ll receive a year, and then the month before they turn 5, they’ll get their graduation book,” Terry said. “It’s a ready for kindergarten book.”
Foldvary's son is 3 years old and has been in the program since he was 1.
“What’s really neat about the program, especially for the older children in the program, is the label and the postage actually comes in their name,” Foldvary said. “It’s something that they take ownership in. When my child receives it, he loves getting the books. He’s always asking about it. Of course, when they come in, he immediately wants to unpackage them and read them.”
How to sign up for the program
Families can register their children for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library by visiting www.unitedwayfortsmith.org, calling 479-782-1311 or mailing in a form found on the organization’s website.
Donations to the program can also be made at www.unitedwayfortsmith.org. A donation of $25 will fund one year of books for a child.
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Your child can receive free books through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library