Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library wins national award

In August, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gifted over 1,853,101 books. The total number of free books gifted as of August 2021, is 165,176,249. This week the National Association of State Boards of Education recognized the Tennessee non-profit for its positive effect on preK-12 education. (Graphic Provided)

STATE NON-PROFIT NEWS — If you know or love a Moore County preschooler, you know the excitement that happens when an Imagination Library book shows up in their mailbox. To date, the program’s delivered well over 165 million free books to kids not only in Moore County and Tennessee but across the globe and this week it received a well-deserved award.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is being honored as the 2021 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). This national award is given annually to an individual or organization whose contributions to preK-12 education are significant and enduring.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, Dolly’s nonprofit organization founded in 1988 and based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Since launching in 1995, the Imagination Library has become the preeminent, global early childhood book-gifting program. Inspired by her father’s inability to read or write, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading and learning by gifting books, free of charge to families, through funding shared by Dolly and local community partnerships.  

In 2018, the Imagination Library achieved an incredible milestone of 100 million books gifted since inception, and two short years later it surpassed 150 million books. As of August 2021, the Imagination Library gifts over 1.8 million specially selected, high quality, age-appropriate books each month via the mail to registered children from birth to age five in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland. 

Parents of enrolled children are overwhelmingly positive about the program, reporting that their children eagerly anticipate the arrival of their new books “from Dolly”. Evaluations of the program have also documented children’s increased readiness for kindergarten and better phonological awareness, as well as increased frequency of being read to by parents and caregivers. 

“Because of the Imagination Library’s commitment to early literacy and to children and their families, parents read aloud more to their children and are more comfortable reading,” said Byron Ernest, chair of the NASBE Board of Directors. “We are so proud to award NASBE’s Friend of Education award to this exemplary organization. They epitomize everything NASBE stands for.”

“We are honored to receive this recognition from NASBE for the work of the Imagination Library,” said Jeff Conyers, president of the Dollywood Foundation. “We believe, as NASBE does, that every child, regardless of income, should have access to books from the very beginning, and we are committed to making Dolly’s vision a reality for children across America and around the world.”

“The Imagination Library exemplifies what NASBE values: equity and excellence in the education of all children,” said Robert Hull, NASBE president and CEO. “The Library has inspired the love of reading in our youngest children, making it possible for children in all circumstances to thrive in school and support lifelong learning.”

NASBE’s full slate of 2021 awards will be presented at its virtual annual conference October 6-8, 2021. •

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