Onslow County Partnership for Children: In 1996, Dolly Parton developed the Imagination Library. Originally created so that every preschool child in her home of Sevier County, Tennessee, would have his/her own home library, by 2007, Imagination Library was providing more than 4.5 million books to preschoolers in 43 states and provinces across America and Canada, including several initiatives by Governors.

We are a private non-profit agency that advocates and provides services for the healthy development of children, by building the strengths and capacities of families, care-giving professionals, and the communities in which they reside.

Imagination Library: Creating a Community of Readers

Scientists tell us that literacy involves all of the domains of development—cognitive, social, emotion and physical—working in concert, and that reading is one of the most important skills for thriving in a complex global society. And yet, according to research, many households have no age-appropriate books available for children, a problem that is especially prevalent in low-income households where over 60% of low-income families do not have a single book suitable for a child.

In response to this problem, in 1996, Dolly Parton developed the Imagination Library. Originally created so that every preschool child in her home of Sevier County, Tennessee, would have his/her own home library, in 2012, the Imagination Library and all of its local sponsors distributed 7.65 million books and pushed the total given away since inception to over 45 million. Almost 300,000 new children were welcomed to the program. Currently 705,263 preschoolers throughout America, Canada, and the United Kingdom are building home libraries to better prepare them to enter kindergarten. Parton’s vision was to create a love of reading among children and families by providing a gift of a specially selected book each month to their home.

Imagination Library of Onslow County

In Onslow County, Imagination Library is administered by OCPC and managed by one full-time Early Learning Coordinator. The goals for the program are six-fold:

  • To increase the number of books in the homes of children in Onslow County
  • To increase literacy activities in the homes of participating children
  • To increase parent-child interaction in the homes of participating children
  • To increase child interest in reading
  • To increase parent awareness of a child’s reading skills
  • To build a community of readers in Onslow County who can model the importance of reading for the next generation.

Imagination Library books are chosen by a panel of experts  from the fields of child development, education, and early literacy select books that are appropriate for children aged birth to 5. New titles are introduced each year so younger siblings will not receive duplicate books that their siblings received. Six to ten books sent to enrolled children are in both English and Spanish. The books selected incorporate specific themes targeting age appropriate developmental milestones. Importantly, Imagination Library relies on an asset-based rather than a deficit-based model. By providing books to every child, children in need are not singled out based on income and every child has the opportunity to participate in the program, increasing the likelihood of participation.


OCPC covers the cost of administering the program; additional funding will be directed to the purchase of books, so that more children can be enrolled in the program. The cost per child is $2 per month, or $24 per year. Depending on the age of enrollment, it may cost up to approximately $120 over the course of the program to help a child build skills that will last a lifetime.

Evaluation & Impact

Across the country, studies of the impact of Imagination Library have consistently shown that more families read more often to their children and, in turn, this leads to children whose development is on target for learning and thriving in school and beyond. Furthermore, we were thrilled that the research article based on DPIL (by the extraordinary team from Le Moyne College) has been accepted for publication in the journal, Reading Psychology. The article, “The Imagination Library Program: Increasing Parental Reading through Book Distribution” by Ridzi, Sylvia, & Singh, marks the first publication of empirical research assessing the impact of this international program in an academic, peer reviewed journal.

In Onslow County, we will conduct careful evaluation of the program through a monthly report of book distribution. We support early literacy development with newsletters, book activity sheets for families, community events, parent/teacher trainings, and special projects.

For more information, contact Lisa Davis: lisa.davis@onslowkids.org