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

Dec 6, 2023 | Imagination Library, United States

Imagination Library is Expanding Statewide in Maine

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

Maine Governor Janet Mills joins Dolly Parton, State Librarian Lori Fisher, The Dollywood Foundation Regional Director Lauren Wirt, and Sarah Duncan of the United Way of Aroostook County to announce the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program’s mission is to inspire a love of reading by providing universal access to free, high-quality and age-appropriate books each month for children ages 0 to 5 years old throughout Maine.

“A lot of good people worked to make this possible, but I want to send my personal thanks to Governor Janet Mills who helped make this dream a reality for children and families across Maine,” said Dolly.

The Imagination Library 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.

“My mother introduced me to the library, encouraged me to read books of every kind, and instilled in me a lifelong love of reading. I’m thrilled to help expand Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library across our state so that thousands of Maine children can strengthen their reading skills and learn to love reading,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank the one-and-only Dolly Parton for working with my Administration to bring this important program to Maine.

Following today’s announcement, the Governor read to local children at the Bangor Public Library to celebrate the program and highlight the importance of child literacy. Last summer, Governor Mills announced that Maine would expand the program statewide in 2023 during a virtual discussion with Dolly at the 2023 National Governor’s Association Summer Meeting in Portland.

In the bipartisan budget passed last year, Governor Mills proposed, and the Legislature approved, a $200,000 investment to implement the program, which is administered by the Maine State Library. Together, The Dollywood Foundation and the Maine State Library are executing an implementation strategy with local libraries, community non-profits, the Maine Department of Education, and school systems – to establish and expand the program in the coming years.

Goals for Expansion

Currently, over 4,500 eligible children in Maine are receiving free books through 12 local partners across the state. The Maine State Library and the Dollywood Foundation are working to expand the program to all sixteen counties statewide, with an immediate goal of enrolling 65% of eligible children (63,932) as quickly as possible.

The Imagination Library builds on the Mills Administration’s commitment to increasing childhood literacy in Maine, including investing $10 million through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to create and expand preschool programs across Maine.
The Administration has also created the “Literacy for ME 2.0” to revamp its statewide literacy plan and the Maine Association for Improving Literacy to mobilize a network of educators who are committed to supporting statewide literacy efforts.

According to The Dollywood Foundation, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of five, making that time period critically important for their development that can be enhanced by reading books. The Foundation notes that daily readings by parents or caregivers provide the greatest opportunity to prepare their child for school and that literacy is a major social determinant of health and economic impact in the long term.

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.