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More Books in the Hands of More Children: Governor Kotek Announces Statewide Launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — Gov. Tina Kotek held a celebration Wednesday to announce the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This announcement means the state will work toward its goal of making curriculum books accessible to all children ages 0-5 in every Oregon county.

“We know that every child is full of promise,” Kotek said. “And expanding this program across Oregon is another key step we are taking as part of a broader strategy to improve how we support our children as they learn to read.”

The Imagination Library is supported by the Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Dolly Parton in 1988. Since its launch in 1995, the goal of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been for every child under the age of five to register and receive a free monthly book adapted to their age. . The Oregon Imagination Library will aim to increase children’s literacy rates, foster a love of books, and promote a culture of reading among all families in the state.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has distributed more than 220 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. This is accomplished through shared funding from the Dollywood Foundation and local community partners.

The Imagination Library sends more than 3 million high-quality, age-appropriate books directly to children’s homes each month. Each child enrolled in the program receives one book per month, from birth to age 5, at no cost to families. The impact of the program has been the subject of extensive research and results demonstrate its positive impact on early childhood development and literacy skills.

Currently, more than 54,000 children across Oregon receive the gift of a monthly book through 55 community programs. Oregon families already enrolled in existing programs do not need to re-enroll and will continue to receive books without any interruption.

In 2023, the Legislature allocated $1.7 million through Senate Bill 5506 to the Department of Early Learning and Child Care (DELC). Currently, more than 45,000 Oregon children ages 0-5 are currently registered to receive books through the Imagination Library.

To ensure all children can participate, new local program partners are needed and existing Imagination Library programs are encouraged to increase capacity to enroll additional children.

“When state government partners with organizations like DPIL, we can truly make Oregon a better place to live, learn and raise a family,” said House Democratic Leader Ben Bowman. “Through this program, thousands of Oregon children will learn to love reading. I am sincerely grateful to everyone who played a role in developing this program in Oregon, as well as to Dolly and the entire DPIL team for their vision in launching it.

The statewide expansion of the Imagination Library follows efforts already made by Governor Kotek to increase literacy rates across the state.

In 2023, she worked with the Legislature to pass House Bill 3198, known as the Early Literacy Success Initiative, allocating $90 million to be distributed to every school district in the state to strengthen readiness and support from current teachers and school leaders. All 197 of Oregon’s school districts have applied for funding under the initiative, which also focuses on children from birth to age five.

The initiative also generated $20 million for resources to support parents and families in developing literacy before their children enter preschool or kindergarten, years that according to extensive research, constitute the most formative years of children’s brain development.

“Brain science clearly shows that children begin developing reading and writing skills from birth,” said DELC Director Alyssa Chatterjee. “That’s why here in Oregon we are making major investments to help our children develop a love of reading.”

“You can never give too many books to too many children,” said Margie Lowe of the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub. “Over the past two years, I have discovered that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library brings joy to those who support bringing the books as well as those who snuggle up with a small child to read the books. It really is a wonderful program.

Last year, Governor Kotek also created the Literacy Educator Preparation Council to strengthen the preparation of teachers and school administrators to teach reading and writing to elementary school students.

Families can visit www.imagininglibrary.com to find out if the program is available in their area or to sign up to be notified when the program expands to their community.

To learn more about becoming a Community Partner, contact Rachel King at [email protected].

Here’s a video announcing the statewide launch, featuring Dolly Parton.