According to multiple studies through the years, reading is one of the best gifts you can give to your child. Listening to books help with brain development, making lasting connections with parents, and having more complex views of the surrounding world. Early reading also helps curb aggression and hyperactivity, and nurtures concentration and longer attention span in problematic kids.
Most parents understand the positive influence of reading and start reading with their kids when they are younger than one year. And here comes a problem – not every family has enough financial resources to buy many books. Kids from low income households have only about half as many books as those from affluent families. Public libraries help with that, but not everybody has one close by or even means to get there. This is where Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library comes in. It mails free books to kids in US, Canada, UK, and Australia.
What is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library?
It was launched in 1995 in Dolly Parton’s native Sevier County, Tennessee and meant to be a monthly book giveaway for all local preschool children. An avid reader herself, Dolly had a dream to make sure all kids have access to books, especially the disadvantaged ones. The program became very popular right away and started growing. Her goal to give a book a month in her county expanded and today, because of her program, about one million kids receive monthly books worldwide.
As of today this organization has mailed over 112 million books to kids and families around the world. The organization coordinates book selection and asks local partners and volunteers to help with shipping costs and purchases. There currently are over 1,700 local partners.
How to get into the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program?
Every child between ages 1 and 5 is eligible for one free book per month. There is no income requirement and no other limitations, except for one – your location. The organization doesn’t have local partners in every community and that’s why the free delivery might not be available everywhere.
You can find out if you are eligible for Imagination Library’s books by logging onto their website or using a map to find an affiliate in your location.
If you discover that your location is eligible, you need to complete a registration form and email it or print and mail. Once you get approved, you will start receiving books.
If you discover that there are no affiliates in your area, you can work with the organization and launch one. You can get in touch with program coordinators and find out all the details how to get the process started.
What books can you expect to get?
The books are selected and curated by education and writing field experts and based on child’s age. The experts strive to select books that would be educational but also fun and meaningful. This is the only way to help kids start really love books.
Every child gets “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper as their first book. “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come” is always the last one to arrive. In between, kids receive many modern and classic kids’ books meant to foster the love of reading and curiosity. There are fiction and non-fiction books in the mix. Some examples include The Gruffalo, The Snowy Day, The First Strawberries, Tale of Peter Rabbit, Violet the Pilot, Plenty of Love to Go Around, Jake at Gymnastics, Llama, and Dolly’s own Coat of Many Colors.
The books seek to promote diversity, help with self-esteem, and love for arts, and responsibility for one’s own actions and the world.
What role do parents have?
Parents have a few resources from this program too. They can get reading tips for all age groups, printable worksheets, and stories for telling.
Why does Dolly care about literacy so much?
Dolly Parton is very passionate about encouraging literacy not only because she loves books herself, but because she watched her own father struggling with not being able to read and saw how hard life can be for people like that. She believes that knowing how to read will open many doors even if there is no money for higher education. There are books about everything and every child has a chance at better life. Kids who read can plan for a better future and better life.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is not the only one way to get free books for families that value literacy and enjoy reading. There are a few other ways:
- Free Kids Books – books for kids of all ages come in PDF files and can be printed or read as eBooks.
- Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program – if your kids (1st to 6th grades) sign up for this free program, they will have to read 8 books over the summer, write about a favorite part from each one of them, and bring the paper to Barnes & Noble between August 1-31 for a free book of choice. If you decide to get your favorite book from Barnes and Noble, don’t forget to use their coupons.
- Read Conmigo - a free program for Pre-K to 5th grade kids in Texas, California, and Florida. A free bilingual book is sent every 4 months to enhance the knowledge of second language.
- Little Free Libraries – neighborhood shelves with books for everybody to share, and return back after reading for others to enjoy.
- Craigslist, Freecycle, and Facebook Marketplace – browse there for free books or place an ad for books wanted and you’ll be surprised how many people have something to donate.
- Libraries – this is probably the best option to get free books and choose from thousands of titles.
- Amazon Free Books – there are many free eBooks on Amazon for Kindle readers and you can find them when you search from low price to high.
- Amazon Prime Kindle Owner’s Lending Library – if you are a Prime member and have a Kindle, you can borrow one free book per month, including kids’ books.
- Project Gutenberg – the site offers plenty of free eBooks for downloading, especially for older kids.
- ManyBooks – free online library with books for downloading or reading onsite.
- Free Children Stories – an extensive online collection of electronic books and audio books for kids of all ages.
- Read.gov – these are classic books that are scanned form Congress library books and available for reading with library’s online e-reader.
- International Children’s Digital Library – this organization provides free eBooks in 59 languages from around the world.