Legendary country music artist Dolly Parton is putting in overtime after her “9 to 5,” partnering with the state of Illinois through her Imagination Library program to give free books to children from birth to age five.
The announcement of the $1.6 million partnership came from Governor J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton during their visit to Maplewood School in Cahokia Heights, near the Missouri border on Tuesday, June 13.
“Imagination Libraries are already working their magic at a few dozen locations around the state, and the teamwork of my administration and the Dollywood Foundation will make it possible to bring Dolly to every doorstep,” said Pritzker in the press release.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program launched in 1995 that mails “free, high-quality books” to children from birth to age five regardless of a family’s income. After its launch, the program expanded and by 2003, the Imagination Library had mailed one million books. The program has also expanded into Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland following the success in the States. The Imagination Library is supported by The Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Parton in 1988.
While Parton’s foundation has already partnered with a few cities and school districts, the new deal will take the program across the entire state of Illinois.
“As a longtime early childhood advocate, I’m incredibly excited for what’s to come,” said Pritzker in a press release. “These are some of the most crucial years for learning of a person’s lifetime, and this initiative will connect low-income families to resources their children will need for lifelong success.”
“Every child deserves the opportunity to discover worlds beyond their imagination,” said Stretton in the press release. “Thanks to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, children in every corner of Illinois can receive free books mailed directly to their home.”
Along with the announcement of the expansion of the program, Pritzker announced the state’s investments in early childhood education and care. Additionally, $250 million in funding for the Smart Start Illinois Plan, which includes the following, was also announced:
$75 million increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant, which creates 5,000 new preschool seats for next year
$130 million to support the creation of the Childcare Workforce Compensation Contracts, which will increase wages for childcare workers
$40 million to increase Early Intervention and help provide access to therapeutic services for children 3 and under who are, or are at risk, or developmental delay of disability
$5 million to expand the Home Visiting program