Illinois Kicks Off Statewide Expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Dec 5, 2023 | Imagination Library, United States

Imagination Library is Expanding Statewide in Illinois

Illinois announces goal to make books available to all children ages 0-5 in every county!

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker joins Dolly Parton to announce the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This book gifting program mails free, high-quality, and age-appropriate books to children from birth to age five, regardless of the family’s income. Governor Pritzker’s FY24 budget allocates $1.6 million to the program to support early childhood learning in Illinois and instill a lifelong reading practice.

“I am so excited to announce that Illinois is expanding my Imagination Library statewide,” says Dolly. “Thank you to Governor JB Pritzker and all our local program partners across Illinois who worked so hard to make this dream a reality.”


The Imagination Library Program is supported by The Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Dolly Parton in 1988. Since launching in 1995, the Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world, with the mission of inspiring a love of reading in children from birth to age five. Inspired by Dolly’s father’s inability to read, the Imagination Library Program was launched in her home county of Sevier County, Tennessee. The program’s significant impact led to its international expansion and has gifted over 224 million free books in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland. Every month, the Imagination Library mails over 2.8 million books.

Goals for Expansion

The program is currently active in areas across 40 counties in Illinois with nearly 30,000 children enrolled, and with this expansion is expected to cover the entire state fully. To ensure that all children can participate, new local program partners are needed, and existing Imagination Library programs are encouraged to grow the capacity to register additional children.

Research has shown that the first five years of life are critical for young children, with around 90% of brain development occurring during those years. Daily readings by parents or caregivers provide the greatest opportunity to prepare their child for school and literacy is a long-term major social determinant of health and economic impact. Children receiving books through the Imagination Library see increased readiness for kindergarten and higher academic achievement.

The program was allocated $1.6 million in the FY24 budget, building on Governor Pritzker’s historic investments in early childhood education and care.
To learn more about becoming a community partner, contact Pam Hunsaker at [email protected].

Register a Child

The program is free of charge to families and made possible through funding shared by Dolly and local community partners in the state. Check availability to enroll your child or sign up to be notified when this program comes to your community. Visit back often as we expand across the state.