This week, the Dollywood Foundation and the state of Illinois announced the launch of an official collaboration to provide Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide. The initiative will receive $1.6 million from the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget and aims to enhance early childhood learning throughout Illinois by providing free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth to age five, regardless of family income.

The Imagination Library was first launched in 1995 and has since evolved into one of the world’s premier early childhood book-gifting programs. Since its establishment, it has distributed more than 220 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland, with more than 2.8 million books being mailed monthly.

The program currently operates across 40 counties in Illinois, with more than 30,000 children benefiting. State officials and the Dollywood Foundation hope to ensure that every child within the state has access to the program’s benefits.

Research underscores the critical role of the first five years in a child’s development, with around 90 percent of brain development occurring during this period. Daily readings by parents or caregivers during these formative years significantly contribute to school readiness, impacting long-term health and economic outcomes.

To explore partnership opportunities or check program availability in specific areas, interested parties can contact Pam Hunsaker at Families can check if the program is available in their areas, enroll their children, or sign up for notifications regarding program expansion on the “find my program” page at If no local program currently exists in your area, it is recommended that you visit the website periodically as the program expands across the state.

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