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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library turned 20 this past year. I just learned about the organization, which started in 1995 with the purpose of putting age-appropriate, quality books in more homes. Every month, a new book is mailed to children under 5 years old. The program was originally aimed at children in Parton’s home community in East Tennessee and has since spread to other communities willing to partner with the organization.

The numbers are impressive:

  • More than 1600 communities in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. participate
  • More than 800,000 children 5 years old and younger receive a free new book every month
  • More than 60,000,000 books mailed through the program so far
  • A child enrolled in the library from birth will receive up to 60 books

Parton credits her generous daddy as the library’s inspiration. Having books in the home fosters a love of reading in children. For many, it’s not enough to have a local library. The books need to be in the home. I’ve seen the positive impact having a modest home library has had on my smart, curious, book-loving nieces. It’s no surprise that home libraries are linked to higher measures of math and language development. According to research covered in PSMag, 42 nations report positive effects of having books in the home, particularly for disadvantaged kids. What’s more, each addition to a home library helps children do better.

You can check the Imagination Library page to see if the program is already available in your area. If not, with a little fundraising, communities can bring the program to local children. My oldest niece is always coming up with fundraising ideas for a good cause, she wants a swimming pool on the roof. Feel free to try one of her dream schemes:

  • Open a pop-up beauty parlor to cut the tangles out of hair.
  • Use her mommy’s old expired crusty makeup to give makeovers.
  • Eat pickles. Surely someone will pay you to do that.
  • Paint every house on your block purple.
  • Catch birds, lightning bugs and butterflies and sell them for pets.
  • Throw a dance party in your bedroom.
  • Pick tomatoes from a neighbor’s garden and ask them to pay for the picking service. (not sure about this one, guys)