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Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to give away free books to children under 5 in California in 2023

California will be the 15th state to join the initiative that aims to encourage the habit of reading in younger children.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to give away free books to children under 5 in California in 2023
Cover Image Source: Dolly Parton attends We Are Family Foundation honors Dolly Parton & Jean Paul Gaultier at Hammerstein Ballroom on November 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Dolly Parton is one celebrity who is perhaps as well-known for her philanthropic efforts as her contributions to music. The country singer is renowned for her charitable efforts and for using her resources to help those who are in need. She has contributed to COVID vaccine research, paid for choir uniforms, provides free tuition to Dollywood employees and also donated to disaster relief efforts.


The Imagination Libary—one of her most well-known programs, which she began in 1995 to promote reading in Sevier County—will now spread its impact across California as the program to set to launch statewide in mid-2023. Governor Gavin Newsom and The Dollywood Foundation have partnered to provide free books to all Californian kids under the age of five, per My Modern Met.


With the passage of Senate Bill 1183, California will become the 15th state to join the initiative. So far, the Imagination Library has donated over 186 million books throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. More than 2.4 million kids in California will be qualified to get a free book in the mail each month. Parton said: "I’m so thrilled at the overwhelming support to make my Imagination Library available to every child in California! I want to thank Senator Shannon Grove and Senator Toni Atkins for inspiring tremendous support from California legislators and Governor Gavin Newsom for enthusiastically signing this bill."

She added, "Today is an amazing milestone for children and families across the state! We still have a lot of work to do, but together we can inspire a love of reading in children across California that will last a lifetime." Beginning in June 2023, the program will be open to California children under the age of five. One percent of young children in California between the ages of 0 and 5 are currently enrolled in local Imagination Library programs, which continue to enjoy growing popularity and success, particularly in remote and hard-to-reach areas where libraries are more challenging to access. 


The Imagination Library said in an official statement: "SB 1183 creates a statewide program that will reach all 58 counties, opening eligibility up to 2.4 million children in California. The 2022-23 state budget also includes $68.2 million in one-time funding to establish the program in partnership with The Dollywood Foundation, under the administration of the State Librarian." 

According to research, reading for children in their first five years of life has several positive effects on their development. Getting kids interested in reading and encouraging family reading time helps kids develop their language and memory abilities and piques their imagination. Young children who are exposed to books and who read frequently and early are academically successful and better prepared for kindergarten. 


Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins shared, "Growing up with very little money in southwest Virginia, my parents taught me that books were my ticket to see the world. A deep love of reading and learning is the greatest gift they ever gave me—it is so special to be able to pass that on to children across California. And, to be able to do so in partnership with my friend, Senator Grove, and my country music idol, Dolly Parton, is just icing on the cake." 

The State Librarian and The Dollywood Foundation will be able to develop regional Imagination Library partners right away thanks to SB 1183. It is predicted that additional county programs will debut and accept students in the middle of 2023.

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