Great Start Collaborative
Jackson County

Ensuring a Great Start for Jackson's Children!

Imagination Library

Update on the Jackson County Imagination Library Program

In 2008, the Jackson County Great Start Collaborative adopted Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program as a way to increase literacy among our young children and to help them obtain a love of books and reading. Since that launch date, we have reached over 12,000 Jackson County children, mailed 383,244 books, and because of data collected by Michigan State University, we have the proof that this program has indeed increased the reading skills of children entering kindergarten.

Although the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is provided free to the families whose children are receiving the books, there is a cost associated with having this program in our community. Unfortunately, this cost has become a great challenge for us at the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County. Currently, we have nearly 4000 children enrolled, which adds up to a total cost of $100,000 per year to keep this program rolling. On top of this, we have many more children in our community waiting to be enrolled in the program.

The needed funds to run the Imagination Library program in our community, must be donated to the Imagination Library program or it cannot exist. We, at the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County, have held fundraisers, wrote grant proposals, presented to local service groups and clubs, and have spread awareness in the community that there is a cost involved with the Imagination Library, but it has not been enough. We are now facing the reality that we must stop the Imagination Library program in Jackson County at this time. We will be sending out a press release to the local news media to let the community know that unless new funding sources can be found, the program will not proceed in Jackson County. At this time, we will be pausing the program beginning this month and deactivating the book ordering system for Jackson County.

We know that you feel our own disappointment as you hear this news. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been a wonderful program in our community – one that is loved by children and parents alike. 

    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


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

    Jackson County Preschool Hotline: 517-768-5130

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