Great Start Collaborative
Jackson County

Ensuring a Great Start for Jackson's Children!

Imagination Library

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.

Help Provide Free Books for Young Children in Jackson County!

Since it's launch in 2008, over 11,700 young children have participated in this program, and in May 2016 the 342,000th book was mailed!  This program is free to Jackson County children ages 0-5 but there is a cost to provide the program to the Jackson community.  It costs $30 per year to send one book each month to a child.  100% of all donated funds stay in Jackson County and go directly to the Jackson County Imagination program.  No administration fees are covered by the funds donated to the Imagination Library program.

Local analysis of literacy skills at kindergarten entry shows that children who participated in Imagination Library prior to entering kindergarten have stronger literacy skills than their non-program peers.  Read the full report here.

Dolly's Imagination Library in Jackson County has been a wonderful asset to our children.  From encouraging closer bonds between children and caregivers, initiating a love of reading and books, and helping to give children the confidence and skills they need to enter the demanding world of kindergarten, we recognize this program as an integral part in putting our children on the the path to future success.

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.

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
  • Culver's
  • Panera Bread

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:
    • Volunteer your time as a member of the Imagination Library Fundraising Council.  The Fundraising Council is responsible for the planning and implementation of all fundraising to support Jackson County's program.  The Council meets monthly and is in need of members with fundraising, event planning, and grantwriting experience.  Contact us to learn more.
    • Make a monetary donation to support the program.  A donation of $30 provides one child with a year of books!  To donate online click here.  Donations can be mailed to: 
      • Jackson County Imagination Library Program Fund                                     Jackson Community Foundation                                                                     One Jackson Square, Suite 308                                                                 Jackson, MI  49201
    • Help spread the good news!  Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about the program and how they can help. 

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 5 and 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.

2015 Jackson County School Readiness Report - Executive Summary and General Report

2015 Jackson County School Readiness Report - Impact of Imagination Library Participation

Imagination Library Impact Study 2007: Prekindergarten

Imagination Library Impact Study 2007: Kindergarten


Upcoming Events

Community Feedback:  Tell Us What You Think About Jackson's Imagination Library Program!

“I inform everyone I know about the Imagination Library, including my own family members. I cannot thank you enough for this program! By the time the children start school, they are ready to learn about the early elements of literature and print. You don't have to teach them how to hold the book, that print has meaning, or how to ‘read the pictures’ to tell a story. You also see it in their writing skills – they can plan and create their own stories. I hear, ‘But, I don't know what to write!’ a lot less often.”

“Lap time and story reading prior to entering kindergarten is directly related to how well a child will read in the future.”

“Students are proud of their books and bring them to school for me to read.”

Click here to tell us what you think.


Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County     6700 Browns Lake Rd, Jackson, MI  49201

Jackson County Preschool Hotline: 517-768-5130

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