Oregon Celebrates Statewide Expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

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Earlier this month, Governor Tina Kotek and state officials joined representatives from the Dollywood Foundation to celebrate a new partnership for the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The goal of the statewide expansion is to make books available to children in every zip code in Oregon. The event helped to spread awareness about the importance of early literacy and resulted in an immediate boost of uptake to the program.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by sending books each month to young children, free of charge to families, through funding shared by Dolly, the State of Oregon, and local community partnerships. Today, millions of children – including thousands in Oregon – receive a specially selected book that is mailed to their home each month to help foster early literacy skills and a love of reading. Parents and caregivers of children ages 0-5 can sign up to receive a new book each month at no cost to families.

DELC Director Alyssa Chatterjee stands with ODE Director Dr. Williams in front of a Dolly Parton cutout and a table of books.

During the 2023 legislative session, under Senate Bill 5506, $1.7 million was appropriated to the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) to help expand the program statewide. Currently, over 54,000 children across Oregon receive the gift of a monthly book through 55 community programs. Now, DELC has contracted with the Dollywood Foundation to work with local community partners to expand to more children and families across the state.

In addition to remarks from Governor Kotek, the importance of early literacy was emphasized in comments made by House Majority Leader Ben Bowman, DELC Director Alyssa Chatterjee, and State Librarian Wendy Cornelison.

Representatives from The Dollywood Foundation, together with local program partners including Margie Lowe from the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub stressed the value of developing a love of reading.

Becca Blessing, a parent in attendance, relayed how excited her child is to walk to the mailbox in anticipation of receiving a book, always hugging the book when it arrives. Dolly Parton provided remarks by video, concluding with an Oregon twist on her classic “I Will Always Love You.”

House Majority Speaker Ben Bowman addresses a crowd in front of an Imagination Library banner.

“When state government partners with organizations like DPIL, we can truly make Oregon a better place to live, learn, and raise a family,” House Leader Ben Bowman said. “Because of this program, many thousands of Oregon kids will learn to love reading. I am sincerely grateful to all those who played a role in developing this program in Oregon…and to Dolly and the entire team at DPIL for their vision in starting it.”

Families can visit the Imagination Library website to find out if the program is available in their area or to sign up to be notified when the program expands to their community. Books are free regardless of family income status.

To learn more about becoming a community partner, contact Rachel King at rking@imaginationlibrary.com.

Dolly Parton’s video remarks, along with the recorded remarks of Oregon officials can be found on the DELC website.

About Author

Kate Gonsalves is the Director of Communications for Oregon Department of Early Learning and Care.

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