Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

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Why bring Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to our community?

Fact 1: State governments plan the number of jail cells they will need based on the amount of children not reading at the end of third grade. 
Fact 2: Getting books in the home and encouraging parents to spend time with their children with books and literacy is a greater indicator of academic achievement and success in life than intelligence.
Fact 3: The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.

Imagine a community where every child’s home has wonderful books to read!  
The mission of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families, by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. Growing up in a low-income community in Sevier County, Tennessee, Dolly saw how her friends and relatives struggled to read and how reading difficulties had a negative impact throughout their lives.  The Imagination Library is her simple, yet powerful way to inspire families to read to their preschoolers. For whatever reasons, many parents feel apathetic, disenfranchised, disinherited, and marginalized. Dolly Parton decided to eliminate one of the obstacles keeping them from rising above their circumstances: no child/family would be without books.

High quality, age-appropriate books are mailed directly to the children, so that they will be excited about books and feel the magic that books can create. It also insures that every child can have books, regardless of their family’s income. Since the initial program launch in 1996, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has gone from just a few dozen books to over 60,000,000 books mailed to children in the United States, and into Canada and the United Kingdom! Currently, over 1,600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to over 750,000 children every month. Statistics and independent reports have shown drastically improved early childhood literacy for children enrolled in the program.  Further studies have shown improved scores during early literacy testing. The Imagination Library fits well with the Read Early Read Often and Thrive initiatives in our community, as well as supporting the education efforts of United Way of the Lakeshore.

The cost of the books and mailing, approximately $2.00 per month or $25.00 annually, is covered by local funding.  Compared with the cost of incarceration for a year, the $125.00 spent on this early childhood literacy per child is a bargain! Local affiliates of the Imagination Library have three responsibilities: to pay for the cost of the books, to register the children in their area, and to manage the local database. Through funding by generous donors and facilitated by the United Way of Lakeshore, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has come to our community.

Thank you to our generous donors Kathy Evans, the Morgenstern Family, and the Muskegon County Great Start Collaborative, for helping us launch this pilot program in our community.


Kathy was awarded the Patricia B. Johnson Award for Community Leadership and Innovative Grantmaking, which included an Impact Grant from the foundation to the nonprofit of her choice. She chose United Way of the Lakeshore, using the funds to help launch the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program in our community. The Morgenstern children and grandchildren made a donation to United Way of the Lakeshore in honor of Richard and Nancy Morgenstern as a Christmas gift.  This generous donation was also used to help establish the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. A grant from the Muskegon County Great Start Collaborative rounded out the initial funding to get the Library up and running.

With their help, we were able to start a pilot program for children age birth to five in Holton and Muskegon Heights. As funding becomes available, we will expand the program to other areas in our three counties.

To learn more about the program, become a financial supporter, or to join our workgroup to bring Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to more kids in our community, please contact Stephanie at 231.332.4000 or

How do parents in register their children for this program?

Click here for a registration card.

To learn more about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, visit their website here.