The country legend’s Imagination Library program is inspiring young people everywhere to read. In Pennsylvania, Parton’s program has 54 affiliates gifting free books to children from birth through age 5.
At the beginning of 2021, Kutztown Area School District decided to put books into the hands of local children before they even started kindergarten. To do this, the district signed up to be an affiliate for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Started by the legendary country singer in 1995, Imagination Library mails free books to children from birth through age 5, regardless of income. Inspiring a love of reading in kids is the mission of the program and, as of December 2023, Imagination Library includes more than 2,700 local affiliates across the country and has gifted more than 226 million free books to children across the world.
Each month, the program mails age-appropriate books to all registered children, addressed to them, at no cost to the child’s family. Titles range from “Can You Guess? Animal Sounds with The Very Hungry Caterpillar” for children born in 2024, to “Rabbit’s Snow Dance In Our Garden” for children born in 2019.
In Pennsylvania, there are 54 local affiliates that work to register children in their respective areas. These affiliates include nonprofit organizations, regional libraries, and school districts.
In the Kutztown area, there are 355 active children registered and 171 children that have just graduated out of Imagination Library, according to Rikki DeVough, who runs the program for the Kutztown School District. For a while, she said, Kutztown was the only district in Berks County running the program, but two surrounding school districts — Brandywine Heights and Fleetwood — joined recently.
Kutztown parents have embraced the program, DeVough said. She has received countless comments from happy parents sharing their family’s experience with Imagination Library.
“We have been very pleased with the impact of the program,” DeVough said. “All the feedback has been positive, nothing negative. And the list of registered children in Kutztown continues to grow every year.”
How to get involved
To see if there is an affiliate in your area running an Imagination Library program, click here. Then, either use the map to click on your location or enter your zip code to find the affiliate in your area. If the program isn’t currently available in your area, provide your contact information to receive notification when the program does become available.
Or, if there’s no Imagination Library program in your area, you can become an affiliate yourself — an Imagination Library ‘Champion,’ as they’re referred to. It doesn’t have to be a school district or even an organization that starts a program in an area, DeVough said. Any entity or individual in the community can become an affiliate and start offering the program in an unserved area. Visit the Start A Program page to learn more about becoming an affiliate.
Local affiliates are responsible for enrolling children who live within the specified coverage area. While books are 100% free to enrolled children, Imagination Library negotiates wholesale pricing for the books and the local affiliates secure funding to cover the low cost of the books and shipping fees. In Kutztown, the district’s Education Foundation provides the funding, DeVough said.
“It’s a great way to get books into the hands of children,” DeVough said. “We are just thrilled that little ones in Kutztown are enjoying the program.”
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