Dolly Parton’s Imagination library to expand children’s book access in Oklahoma

Dolly Parton’s free book program is expanding into all Oklahoma counties and will be available to children ages five and below

The famed country music star Dolly Parton has created a legacy even beyond her iconic discography by working to help combat illiteracy all over the world. Her Imagination Library program delivers a free book every month to children ages five and under.

Parton’s library is expanding its reach into new Oklahoma counties. The program was previously only available in select rural areas of OK, but is now spreading county by county.

The Oklahoma State department announced it will dedicate $2.5 million of its federal stimulus funds to cover half the $2.10 per-child cost of this program as a way to increase literature access in all 77 counties. They will allocate this federal funding through 2024. The rest of the cost will fall to nonprofits, school districts, businesses and other local affiliates. To make the library available to children in their county, the cost will be $1.05 per child.

Access to this program is available to families of any income level, as long as they have a child between birth age and five years old.

Parton and the state aim to bring the Imagination Library to all 264,000 Oklahoman children ages five and below. Regarding the expansion, Parton said “Together let’s inspire a love of reading and learning in every child in Oklahoma,”

Dolly Parton created her library to honor her father who could neither read nor write. It started in 1995 in her home county in Tennessee, and quickly expanded. It can now be found in many different states, Native American communities and even foreign countries. According to Parton, “When I was growing up in the hills of east Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer. The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

According to the World Population Review, the literacy rate in Oklahoma is 87.7%. Research proves how important the targeting of young children is in increasing the rate of literacy. An analysis by the National Early Literacy Panel corroborates that early childhood exposure to reading and at home parent involvement in reading have a significant correlation with increased literacy capacities.

Oklahoma is joining 10 other states who have also implemented this program state-wide. A bill from state Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore and state Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, was created back in 2020 and encoded the Imagination Library Fund in state law. This came after Muskogee and Cherokee counties lost the necessary funds to continue making the Imagination Library available.

The oversight of implementing the new funding program falls to the state department of education. This funding has already allowed new families in Muskogee and Cherokee counties to utilize the program. Based on this immediate impact alone, it can be assumed the expansion of this program will help books find their way into many new homes all throughout Oklahoma.

Post Author: Aurora Stewart