Missouri is distributing books statewide through Dolly Parton’s reading program – an accomplishment that sparks an eventual visit from the country music artist. The program, called “Imagination Library,” provides children up to age 5 a monthly book free of charge.

When Dolly is coming is unknown.

“Dolly Parton has made a commitment. She will come and visit a state when that state has achieved statewide distribution of books to families where all families and in that state, regardless of the zip code, are eligible. And we met that criteria,” said Assistant Commissioner Pam Thomas, with Missouri’s Office of Childhood.

Missouri has about 130,000 children signed up for the program.

“It launched with a tremendous response,” Thomas told Missourinet. “We like to say we kind of broke the website. We had over 20,000 hits within the first day, over 50,000 registrations within the first few days. We’re about at 35% of all eligible children birth to age five, are signed up and receiving books. It’s just incredible for the first few months of a program like this to launch.”

Missouri rolled out the program statewide last November.

Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, the country music legend launched “Imagination Library” in 1995. Today, her program spans five countries and gifts over two million books each month to kids around the world.

Thomas said Missouri wants to distribute books to as many young children and their families as possible.

“Your family can have 60 free books in your home library by the time your child turns five,” she said. “There’s just really no better gift to give young children than time reading and that quality time together. Those skills that you learn prior to kindergarten really foster that love of learning, that love of books, and really just a culture of education and reading. That’s where those important skills and behaviors take place to be ready for school.”

Books will be mailed directly to the homes of registered children.

The cost share partnership is between the state and Dolly Parton’s foundation. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’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.

To sign up, parents and guardians can go to ImaginationLibrary.com.

Copyright © 2024 · Missourinet