What you may not know is that this same person is the driving force behind the Dollywood Foundation, a non-profit organization formed in 1988. Through the foundation, Dolly wanted to thank and give back to her hometown community around Sevierville, Tennessee for believing in and supporting her dreams of being a writer and singer.
She began by distributing scholarships to high school students. She also challenged local high-risk teenagers by offering $500 awards to “buddies” who signed a contract promising to graduate high school. (Incidentally, the Buddy Program reduced the drop-out rate to six percent in surrounding high schools and initiated the community to develop other incentives to keep kids in school.)
Dolly wanted all kids to have a chance to live their dreams as she had and believed “the seeds of these dreams are often found in books.” So in 1995, the hometown celebrity founded her Imagination Library to promote a love of reading among preschool children and their families. Dolly knew that reading would open up the young minds to the infinite possibilities ahead of them and allow them to reach for the stars.
From there, Dolly’s humble desire to help children blossomed into a global venture. One that you and your family may be able to benefit from.
How the Imagination Library Works
What started as a small project in Sevier County, Tennessee nearly 30 years ago has now grown to encompass five countries around the globe (Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, and the United States) and is still expanding. The premise is straightforward – every child who signs up for the program receives one free children’s book a month from birth to age five, no matter the family’s income.
Since its inception, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has mailed more than 184 million books to one million plus children. The Dollywood Foundation provides the infrastructure and resources for the worldwide endeavor and works with local businesses, school districts, organizations, and individuals to bring the program to children in cities, towns, and communities across the country. Not every geographic region is covered yet, but as new affiliates sign on with the program, more and more kids will benefit from the program.
For me, what makes the Imagination Library so distinctive is that each book is personalized with the child’s name and mailed directly to the child’s home. Can you think of a better way to make a kid feel special? The American Printing House for the Blind makes many of the books in the program available in audio format and braille so blind and visually impaired kids can also benefit from the Imagination Library.
It would take more space than this post will allow to give all the specific details. The website provides a more thorough, complete rundown for anyone interested. For US residents, click here to check for an Imagination Library affiliate available in your area. If the program isn’t currently available in your area, enter your zip code here and provide your contact information to receive a notification when the program does become available.
Naturally, details vary from country to country, so please check the website for the UK, Republic of Ireland, Canada, and Australia
As an Indie Author, Can I Donate My Book?
Every author’s dream is to get your book into the hands of every possible eager reader you can find. When I first started researching the Imagination Library, one of my goals was to get Patchy and Calico included in their inventory. Unfortunately, that ain’t going to happen. They do not accept Indie authors in their review process.
The books are chosen solely from works published by Penguin Random House. A hand-picked committee of early childhood literacy experts takes great care to select age-appropriate books that cover various themes and concepts but are limited to that one supplier. Bummer.
However, this is still a fantastic program and needs to be praised for the great job they do.
And they have been. This book gifting organization has won countless awards, including the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and the Best Practices award from the Library of Congress Literacy Awards.
It’s incredible how simple things can make such a big difference. Dolly Parton’s father could not read, but that didn’t stop his daughter from dreaming of being a writer and singer.
She never forgot her roots and wanted to help other kids with the same hopes, desires, and dreams of being successful. Through the Library, she’s giving every child a chance and encouraging them to let their imagination take them wherever they want.
She believes in the power of the written word and so do I. Keep the spark going. Inspire children, one book at a time.