Early literacy skills are essential to a child's success in school and throughout life. Recognizing the need to strengthen and support early literacy efforts in the community to ensure all young children get the best start possible, the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County launched Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in April of 2008 with the generous support of CMS Energy.
As a result of CMS Energy's investment and the financial support of other local donors, every child under age five who resides in Jackson County is eligible to receive a free, age-appropriate book each month until their fifth birthday.
Local support is needed to sustain this program in the community. Please consider sponsoring a child (or two...), it costs just $30 to provide a Jackson County child with a year of free books! Donations can be made directly to the Jackson County Imagination Library Program Fund at the Jackson Community Foundation. To learn more about making a donation or to donate online, click here.
Help Provide Free Books for Young Children in Jackson County!
Imagination Library of Jackson County is always free to families, however it's not free. Funding must be sought locally to keep this program going so the books continue to flow to children throughout the county.
In 2012, Imagination Library provided 47,136 quality children's books to an average of 3,928 children under age five living in Jackson County. This represented an annual cost of $94,844.14 to keep the program going. This cost includes only the cost of each child's monthly book and the cost of shipping, no administration costs are charged to the program.
Local analysis of literacy skills at kindergarten entry shows that children who participated in Imagination Library prior to entering kindergarten have stronger foundational literacy skills than their non program peers. Read the full report here.
Please consider making a donation today to help assure more children enter school ready to succeed.
You're invited! Restaurant events help provide free books for Jackson County youngsters:
Many Jackson area restaurants support early childhood literacy efforts by sponsoring special Imagination Library fundraising events.
Upcoming events include:
On Tuesday, April 22, Finley's American Grill (1602 W. Michigan Ave.) will donate to the Imagination Library 20 percent of your pre-tax (non-alcoholic) purchases when you present one of these Finley's American Grill Tickets when paying your bill! Includes eat-in, take-out, and gift card purchases. One ticket per guest check. Copies of tickets welcome, but tickets cannot be distributed at the restaurant.
Thanks to the restaurants who have generously participated so far!
- Steak n' Shake
- In Good Company
- Pizza Hut
- Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill
- Lone Star Steakhouse
- Bob Evans Farms
- Finley's American Grill
- Qdoba Mexican Grill
- Hugo's Bar & Grill
- The Crazy Cowboy
Please check back here for future fundraiser dates!
Register Your Child to Receive Free Books
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible for the program? All children under age five who reside in Jackson County are eligible to receive a free book each month through the program. At this time we are unable to serve children outside of Jackson County.
My child's books stopped coming, what do I do? Several factors could result in delayed or stopped delivery.
Have you moved? Books are not able to be forwarded by the post office, so if you have moved please complete an address change
as soon as possible to avoid any missed books.
Has your child recenly celebrated his or her fifth birthday? Once a child turns five they have graduated from the program. Children over age five are not eligible to receive books through the program. We encourage families to visit their local Jackson District Library
branch to support your child's love of reading.
I registered my child and he or she has not received any books yet, what do I do
? Registration and book delivery are determined by the national book order system and may be delayed depending on the datethat your child was registered. Please allow up to 10 weeks for the first book to arrive. If it has been more than 10 weeks since you registered your child and no books have been delivered, please contact us
I have recently moved, how do I change my address so my child will continue to receive books
? The post office will not forward your child's books so please complete an address change
as soon as possible. Please note that children who move outside of Jackson County will no longer be eligible for the program.
I would like to help support this program, how can I help? There are several ways you can help support Jackson County's Imagination Library program:
The Story of Imagination Library
In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort to benefit the children of her home county in east Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.
So she decided to mail a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child under 5 in Sevier County. With the arrival of every child’s first book, the classic The Little Engine That Could ™, every child could now experience the joy of finding their very own book in their mail box. These moments continue each month until the child turns 5undefinedand in their very last month in the program they receive Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.
Needless to say the experience has been a smashing success. So much so that many other communities clamored to provide the Imagination Library to their children. Dolly thought long and hard about it and decided her Foundation should develop a way for other communities to participate. The Foundation asked a blue ribbon panel of experts to select just the right books and secured Penguin Group USA to be the exclusive publisher for the Imagination Library. Moreover a database was built to keep track of the information.
Consequently, in March of 2000 she stood at the podium of The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and revealed the plan for other communities to provide the Imagination Library to their children. And as only Dolly can say it, she wanted to “put her money where her mouth is – and with such a big mouth that’s a pretty large sum of money” and provide the books herself to the children of Branson, Missouri and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – communities where her businesses now operate. If other leaders in their communities were willing to do the same, well something big might just happen.
You know what? It did!
Here’s how it works:
A community must make the program accessible to all preschool children in their area. The community pays for the books and mailing, promotes the program, registers the children, and enters the information into the database.
From there The Dollywood Foundation takes over and manages the system to deliver the books to the home. You can find out more of the operational details on other pages in this website – so what are waiting for! Hundreds of communities are providing books to hundreds of thousands of children.
Impact of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been shown to have a positive impact on a child’s school readiness. Children who received books through the program were observed to be better prepared and more socially emotionally ready for school success. Click on the links below to read more.
2012 Jackson County School Readiness Report - Executive Summary and General Report
2012 Jackson County School Readiness Report - Impact of Imagination Library Participation
Imagination Library Impact Study 2007: Prekindergarten
Imagination Library Impact Study 2007: Kindergarten