Dolly Parton’s free book program for kids expands in Colorado

By: - December 2, 2021 8:49 am

Dolly Parton attends a press conference before a performance celebrating her 50-year anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry at The Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 12, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Terry Wyatt/Getty Images, detail)

A statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library means many young Coloradans will soon have access to free books.

Each month, the Imagination Library mails free books to registered children from birth to age 5. 

The goal of the statewide expansion is to make books available for children ages 5 and under in every ZIP code in the state, according to a Tuesday press release. Currently, 4% of eligible children in Colorado receive books through existing community-based programs. 


“I’m so excited to be working with Governor (Jared) Polis, the Department of Education, and our Colorado affiliate organization to bring my Imagination Library to more children and families across Colorado!” the entertainment icon Dolly Parton said in a statement. “Together we can gift a love of reading that will last a lifetime.”

Parton has founded several charities, including The Dollywood Foundation. She has donated to multiple causes, including a $1 million donation to fund COVID-19 vaccine research.

The Imagination Library of Colorado will provide support to current affiliates and launch new affiliates in the state. The Imagination Library opened its first affiliate in Colorado in 2005. Currently, there are 26 local affiliate programs that serve 22 counties in the state.

In the first year of the expansion, the Imagination Library of Colorado will create statewide partnerships, and will form partnerships with local community organizations, such as businesses, school districts and libraries, which will promote the program, according to the press release. 

It will be so exciting for children and families to get a book delivered to their home every month.

– Katy Anthes, Colorado education commissioner

“Ensuring that students are reading at grade level by third grade is one of our most important priorities here at the Department of Education,” said Katy Anthes, the Colorado education commissioner, in the press release. “It will be so exciting for children and families to get a book delivered to their home every month, and we know it will help children develop a lifelong love of reading and set them up for success in school.”

The first book a child is mailed is “The Little Engine That Could,” and the month the child turns 5, they receive “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” 

A 2021 book list for each birth year is available. 

“I’m thrilled that more Colorado children will have access to the books they need to develop a passion for reading and drive their imaginations even further,” Polis said in the press release.

The Imagination Library of Colorado’s website says that children participating in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are 30% more likely to start school kindergarten-ready.

“By providing books every month at no cost to families, the Imagination Library increases childhood literacy rates, fosters a love of books, and promotes a culture of reading among all families in Colorado,” the website says.

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library through the Dollywood Foundation in 1995. In 2000, the Imagination Library expanded to other states, according to the program’s website

As of November 2021, the Imagination Library has provided more than 170 million free books since the program was established. 

An Imagination Library opened in Canada in 2006, and in the United Kingdom in 2007. Every month, the Imagination Library mails over 1.9 million books to registered children from birth to 5 years old. 

Parents can register their children for the program on the Imagination Library website.


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