The Library That Dolly Built - Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
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Helen Hastle

Helen Hastle
Regional Director, UK

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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, London

Our Book Gifting Programme

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children through funding shared by Dolly Parton and local community partners in the UK.

The Imagination Library is a book gifting programme operated by Dolly Parton’s charity, the Dollywood Foundation. It is a collection of high quality, age-appropriate books for children aged from birth until the month they turn five. All children enrolled in the Imagination Library programme receive a free book in the post every month.

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Free books for children from birth to age 5 at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in London

Partner with us to give the gift of books to more children in London!

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library currently sends books to around 11,000 children in London every month. We would love to make this fantastic programme available to more children. Would you like to partner with us and start an Imagination Library in your community? Existing partners include local authorities, early years settings, charities, community groups and businesses who all share our passion to get books into children’s hands and hearts.

We have Imagination Library programmes in the London Borough of Southwark, City of London, Peabody Housing Association, and Richmond Housing Partnership. Several businesses, such as DialAFlight, sponsor local programmes, and they also offer the Imagination Library to their employees’ children. In addition, our partnership with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, has brought the Imagination Library to children in Reception Class at 30 schools across the boroughs of Camden, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

Free books for children from birth to age 5 at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in London

Low Cost; High Quality

At just over £2 per child per month, or £25 per child per year, this is an extremely cost-effective programme. Every penny invested impacts directly on your community, with significant return on investment. The Dollywood Foundation UK covers administrative and operating costs for the programme, and without this subsidy, delivery of the programme would cost an estimated £133 per child per year.

Each Imagination Library programme is championed and operated by local people, making sure it complements existing local projects and services.

The diversity of books is lovely. This program is very helpful because as non-English speaking parents, we have very limited ideas which kind of English books are good for our child.

Southwark parent feedback, December 2020

100 Cats at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in the UK
Mabel and the Mountain at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in the UK

The Books and Book Selection

All titles in the Imagination Library are published by Penguin Random House UK, and carefully selected by a panel of experts in early childhood development and reading. Each title is allocated to a specific year group, ensuring the books are age appropriate. A child enrolled from birth will build their own home library of up to 60 books.

100 Cats at Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in the UK

How the programme works

The Dollywood Foundation works with sponsors, or affiliates, who set up local programmes. The affiliates are responsible for covering the cost of the books and postage as well as registering children.

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Evaluation and Impact

We work hard to ensure the books inspire children to love books and reading, and provide a rich variety of illustrations and styles. In our latest survey in 2020, 97% of parents or carers thought the books were age appropriate and 98% were pleased with the diversity of characters and themes within the books.

We know that supporting literacy development is key to giving children the best start in life, and having books in the home is directly related to early literacy development. Evaluations demonstrate that the regular gift of Imagination Library books encourages families to read more often, and to engage in longer and more discursive reading sessions.

We love this programme. This is one of the best things we have been involved with. It’s simple, easy and our kids look forward to receiving their “surprise” in the mail.

Southwark parent feedback, 2020

95% of families read every
day since receiving books

96% agree it has encouraged their child to enjoy reading and develop a love of books

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