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Children newborn through 5 years old in Adams County will soon have the opportunity to receive free books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program.

Dolly’s Parton’s Imagination Library is an international program that mails one new, age-appropriate, free book every month to children from birth until they reach age 5.

“If you can read, then you can teach yourself anything,” said Dean Hoskins of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

The organization was founded by Dolly Parton in the mid-1990s, Hoskins said. It originated in rural eastern Tennessee where Parton grew up in poverty. Her mother could read, but Parton’s father was illiterate. Parton founded the Imagination Library with dreams of every child from her home state getting the opportunity to learn to read.

The program was so well-received that the Dollywood Foundation found a way to make it replicable in all 50 states and in five foreign countries. The program went statewide in Tennessee in 2004, and North Carolina did the same thing last year. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library ships about 1.2 million books around the world each month from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Ohio’s First Lady Fran Dewine, holding children’s book.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine approved a $5 million grant for the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library in July.

According to Liz Lafferty, Superintendent of Adams County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Adams County Public Library, Leadership Adams County, the Adams County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library will work together on the project.  

According to reports, the idea is that the state government will pay for half of the cost of the books and shipping, and then local affiliates will raise money for the other half. So far, 54 of Ohio’s 88 counties have created a local partnership for the program.  “Tennessee did this in 18 months,” said Amy Timmerman of the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. “We’d like to not take that long.”

Currently, there are over 700,000 children under the age of five in the state of Ohio, but less than 100,000 of those children are currently enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

According to Lafferty, the project is in the early stages. 

The benefits of getting books into children’s hands are well documented. For example, according to a 2008 National Early Literacy Panel Report, research shows children can learn reading and writing in their earliest years. Introducing our youngest learners to sounds, words and pictures makes them better prepared for formal instruction and leads to greater educational success.



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