It’s a universal truth. Life is improved by spending time with joys like little kids, storybooks and Dolly Parton. And now, thanks to community partnerships between Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Western Washington’s Child Care Action Council (CCAC), families in Thurston and Mason counties receive free books galore to set them on the road to success. As Dolly herself says, “Let’s share this dream that all children should grow up in a home full of books.”
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Makes Reading Fun
Studies have long shown that reading with kids, especially at a young age, not only builds vocabulary and creativity but is as an indicator of lifelong success. Unfortunately, as busy parents we can’t always schedule regular trips to the library or afford a massive bookstore haul.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library works to spark the love of reading by sending free books to kids from birth to age 5. Parton’s father was unable to read, and she started this program in 1995 to help families build a strong, secure literacy foundation, free of charge.
To date the program has registered 2.3 million kids and gifted more than 201 million books worldwide. Starting March 2, 2023, kids in Thurston and Mason counties can enroll and each month families will receive a colorful, age-appropriate book in the mail facilitated by the Child Care Action Council.
Books mailed out include some English/Spanish bilingual titles and Imagination Library organizers are always adding new titles to the list. Parents can see a full list of books, broken down by birth year, on the Library’s Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee website.
The Child Care Action Council Has a Passion for Early Learning
Like the Imagination Library, the Child Care Action Council supports families and kids. They facilitate the Imagination Library’s work because they understand how important it is to support literacy and parent engagement. Tovi McClellan, CCAC’s family services program manager, stresses that: “Reading to your child matters! By reading to your child from birth, just 20 minutes a day, they accumulate about 600 hours of essential pre-literacy preparation before entering school. If that’s not enough, you will spend hundreds of hours bonding with your children.”
“Since its inception, Child Care Action Council has worked to identify early learning needs in the community and to address those needs by implementing impactful, equitable programming,” says Gary Burris, executive director. “The Imagination Library will provide critical early literacy resources to families through Mason and Thurston and is unique in its ability to reach socially and geographically isolated families who might otherwise lack access.”
Their organization is doing the boots-on-the-ground portion of distribution. “We mail out books by age group,” explains McClellan, “Children born in the same year receive the same books, appropriate for their age. For instance, twins will receive the same book each month. However, because the books are addressed to each child, they will both have built their own library of quality books when they graduate from the program.”
Sign Up to Receive or Sponsor Free Books Today
There are several ways to sign your kids up for the Imagination Library. Child Care Action Council is partnering with the Timberland Regional Library (TRL) to enroll families either at a nearby branch location or when attending Storytime. For the dates and times at your neighborhood library, visit the TRL events calendar. To register from home, visit CCAC’s Imagination Library portal and enroll by choosing the county in which you live.
And keep an eye out for the lady herself…in cardboard form. CCAC’s nearly life-sized Dolly cut-out has eye-catchingly drawn in families at events all over town. She attended First Friday Night at the Hands On Children’s Museum, ridden Intercity Transit’s handy, fare-free buses, and visited the Lacey Fire Department and both Olympia and Lacey Police Departments.
Don’t need the books but still want to help? Sign up for the Imagination Library mailing list to stay informed and consider donating to sponsor a child today. A donation of only $25 will cover annual costs for two children eagerly awaiting their monthly book delivery.
The Imagination Library is expanding by leaps and bounds. Just since December 2022, the number of books donated has grown by more than two million each month. In her most recent letter of thanks, Dolly Parton praises community partners like CCAC. “Of course, I have not done this alone. The real heroes of our story are the thousands of local organizations who have embraced my dream and made it their own. They raise millions of dollars each year and wake up every day with a passion to make sure their kids have every opportunity to succeed.”
Thanks to the Child Care Action Council and Timberland Regional Library, Washington families can also embrace the dream of literacy one picture book at a time.