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Education Station: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library aiming to enroll more Northeast Ohio children

About half of eligible area children are enrolled in the book-gifting program, which spans 5 countries and has mailed out over 176 million free books since 1995.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Many of us know Dolly Parton as a country music legend, but she also gives out millions of free books to children around the world. 2 million, so far, right here in our area. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library hopes Northeast Ohio parents will make that number even bigger. 

After launching in 1995 in Sevier County where she grew up, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library now spans 5 countries, with over 176-million free books gifted to children.

"It's one of the largest book-gifting programs in the world. It mails free, high-quality books to children every month that they’re enrolled, from birth until they turn 5," says Joan Spoerl, Director of the local branch of Imagination Library through the Literacy Co-op.

DPIL is free of charge with no strings attached. Around 32,000 children in Cuyahoga County are enrolled in the program. That's about half of the eligible children in the county.

"It’s almost like putting the ball in their court and watching them grow. I would say in the beginning I wasn’t an avid reader with her, but when I started receiving these books every month, it made it really hard not to wanna expose her to something new," says Tiara Young, a Parma mother whose 5 year old daughter Isobel has been enrolled in Imagination Library for 3 years.

A study by Case Western tracked the positive local impact of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and found that the longer a child is enrolled, the higher their Kindergarten Readiness Score. In high poverty zip codes alone, 83% of DPIL parents report they read with their child more often, 76% say their child is asking them to read more often, and over 90% believe their child will be better prepared for kindergarten. 

"January 27th she aged out of the program, and the last book she received was Look Out Kindergarten, Here I come. I was a nice send-off because Isobel turned 5 in January and starts Kindergarten this fall," says Young.

"We want families to be talking, reading and singing and playing around with the sounds of language, rhyming. All of that is gonna help a child," says Spoerl.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is for children birth to 5 years old. If you'd like to enroll, the process is easy and, again, totally free. Click here for more information.

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