Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is being honored as the 2021 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The award is given annually to an individual or organization for their contributions to preK-12 education.
Imagination Library is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, Dolly’s nonprofit based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Originally launched in 1995, the program quickly became the preeminent, global, early childhood book-gifting program.
Inspired by Dolly’s father’s inability to read or write, Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading and learning by gifting books free of charge to families, through funding from Dolly and local community partnerships. Evaluations of the program have documented children’s increased readiness for kindergarten and better phonological awareness, as well as increased frequency of being read to by parents and caregivers.
“Because of the Imagination Library’s commitment to early literacy and to children and their families, parents read aloud more to their children and are more comfortable reading,” says Byron Ernest, chair of the NASBE Board of Directors. “We are so proud to award NASBE’s Friend of Education award to this exemplary organization. They epitomize everything NASBE stands for.”
In 2018, the Imagination Library reached an incredible milestone of 100 million books gifted since its inception, and in 2020 it surpassed 150 million books. As of August 2021, the Imagination Library gifts over 1.8 million specially-selected, high quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Ireland.
“The Imagination Library exemplifies what NASBE values: equity and excellence in the education of all children,” comments Robert Hull, NASBE President and CEO. “The Library has inspired the love of reading in our youngest children, making it possible for children in all circumstances to thrive in school and support lifelong learning.”
“We are honored to receive this recognition from NASBE for the work of the Imagination Library,” adds Jeff Conyers, President of the Dollywood Foundation. “We believe, as NASBE does, that every child, regardless of income, should have access to books from the very beginning, and we are committed to making Dolly’s vision a reality for children across America and around the world.”