Inspiring young minds to read is the intent behind Missouri’s rollout today of country music singer Dolly Parton’s reading program.

Through a partnership, Missouri and Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library” provide an age-appropriate book each month to kids free of charge. The cost-share program is for Missouri children under five years old.

Office of Childhood Assistant Commissioner Pam Thomas said the program checks several boxes.

“Promoting that culture of reading is something that’s really important to the Department (of Elementary and Secondary Education),” Thomas told Missourinet. “We know that when we can foster that love of books at a young age, that it is just a great indicator of school success. Holding a book. Touching a book. The textile skills involved in that. Understanding you turn pages – those are the types of skills that are really important to get children prepared to read and are also tied to school readiness indicators. It’s also about having the parent-child interaction.”

According to Thomas, Missouri has about 450,000 children birth to age 5. Books will be mailed directly to the homes of registered children.

“We really want to register as many families as we can. When they sign up in the month of November, their first book will come in the month of January, and their first book is always The Little Engine That Could. So, regardless what age you are, when you come into the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Missouri, that will be your first book,” said Thomas.

Imagination Library has already been available in some areas of the state. Those children currently registered will be automatically enrolled in the new statewide program.

Missouri is the 14th state to commit to a statewide program. It is the only U.S. state that has fully funded its program on the first day of the statewide program.

The department’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget included $11 million to fully fund the distribution of the Imagination Library books for one year. The statewide expansion was also made possible by the Missouri Legislature’s passage and Gov. Mike Parson’s signature.

“I was so excited to hear that now every child in Missouri is eligible for my Imagination Library!” said Dolly. “I want to personally thank the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Childhood, Governor Parson, and everyone else involved for making this happen.”

To register, parents and guardians can go to

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