What is Dolly Parton's Imagination Library?
Does it cost anything to receive the books?
Do I have to be low income to participate?
It's so generous for Dolly Parton to provide these books!

Will I get junk mail if I sign my child up?
Does my child’s book get forwarded if we move?
Why is this offered only to certain communities?
I have a Franklin address or Middletown address in Liberty Township, but your online registration accepted my information. Will my child receive books?
I can't get the online registration system to work. What's wrong?
I signed my child up weeks ago and haven’t received a book. Why?
My book arrived early in the month last month but now it’s mid-month and it hasn’t come yet. Why?
I have two children in my home registered and the first one’s book has come but not the second one. Why?
Can you tell me what books will be sent next month?
What can I do other than just read to my child with the books?
Why is reading to my baby important?
How many children are in Middletown’s Imagination Library?


What is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library?

It is an international early childhood literacy program operating in 1,600 communities across the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia. It provides one free, expert-selected, age-appropriate book every month mailed directly to the home of any child in those communities from birth up until their fifth birthday to help prepare them for kindergarten. Dolly Parton, inspired by her own father’s lifelong inability to read, created the program for children in her native Sevier County, Tennessee, in 1995. By 1999, word of its success had spread and other cities asked to participate, so her Dollywood Foundation began allowing other communities to start using its model. Today, it sends out books to nearly 750,000 children every month and has distributed over 75 million books since inception. The first book every child receives is “The Little Engine That Could” and the last book is “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come” on his or her fifth birthday. For the rest of the child’s enrollment, the book each month is chosen by birth year, so all children born in 2013 receive Book A, all children born in 2012 receive Book B, and so on.

Does it cost anything to receive the books?
No. The program is offered absolutely free to all parents in a participating community. These books are a gift to your child.

Do I have to be low income to participate?
No. The program is offered to all children in a participating community without consideration of income. The goal is to allow all children to enter kindergarten with the shared experience of the same 60 books as an equalizing factor regardless of income or neighborhood or family situation. This not only is something recognized by early childhood education experts as important for children to experience, but it was also a requirement placed on the program by its founder in response to her own memories of the stigma of being singled out for special programs as a child due to her family’s poverty.

It’s so generous for Dolly Parton to provide these books!
Actually, while her foundation covers the administrative costs for the program (convening the selection committee to choose the books, maintaining the database of participating children, negotiating discounted book rates with the publisher, coordinating the monthly mailing, etc.), she does not pay for the actual books sent to local children. That falls to local sponsors, who provide the cost of book purchases and postage. In our community, our primary sponsor is the Middletown Community Foundation. Other major sponsors include Women Enriching Lives, United Way of Greater Cincinnati – Middletown Area, Kiwanis Club of Middletown, Middletown Rotary Foundation, Arthur Harvey Foundation, Barnitz Fund of JP Morgan Chase, the Morgan Family Fund, Atrium Medical Center and individual donors. You may make a tax-deductible donation here to support the program in the Middletown area, which costs about $24 per year to send 12 books to a local child.

Will I get junk mail if I sign my child up?
No. Imagination Library policies prohibit us from using your information for any purpose that is not directly related to the Imagination Library. You may receive invitations to an Imagination Library event we host or a similar offering in the community that we feel parents would be interested in attending, and we might send you a survey (which we hope you will return to us so we know how we’re doing!) or newsletter, but you will not receive “junk mail.”

Does my child’s book get forwarded if we move?
No. As the books are sent bulk mail, they are not forwarded. That is why it is very important for you to contact us immediately with your new address so we may update the mailing system (call 513-424-7369). However, undeliverable books are returned to the Middletown Community Foundation. If a book is returned to us, we try to contact you at the phone number and/or e-mail you provided with your registration to alert you so that you may come pick it up and to ask for an updated address. If we are unable to contact you or you do not pick up your child's book, we will donate it to a charity in the Middletown area so that other children may enjoy it.

Why is this offered only to certain communities?
Since the program requires that local sponsors pay for the cost of book purchase and postage, each community must have a local champion to cover those expenses. Locally, the Middletown Community Foundation
and its partners make the program available to residents within the service area of the Middletown Community Foundation: the Middletown, Monroe, Madison, Edgewood, and Franklin school district boundaries. Middletown was the first community in which we offered the program, starting in January 2009. We added Monroe, Madison, and Edgewood in April 2011 and Franklin in June 2014.

I have a Franklin address or Middletown address in Liberty Township, but your online registration accepted my information. Will my child receive books?
No. Unfortunately, our local zip codes do not correspond to standard geographic or political boundaries, and the Imagination Library online registration system is zip-code based. Therefore, because a small number of the Franklin School District residents have Springboro zip codes, we have to include the Springboro zip code in the system to allow them to register. Likewise, because the Middletown 45044 zip code stretches down into Liberty Township, the online system will accept those addresses. However, before they are approved and added to our mailing list, we review each address to determine where the child resides. If you live outside of the Middletown, Monroe, Madison, Edgewood, or Franklin school district boundaries, we reject your child’s registration.
If you do reside in one of those school districts and have a child who has yet to reach his or her fifth birthday, you may complete the online registration form.

I can't get the online registration system to work. What's wrong?
The system closes for a day or two around the first of each month so that the database may be exported for the next month's book mailing process. Please try again in a few days.

I signed my child up weeks ago and haven’t received a book. Why?
The books are ordered one month in advance, so it is possible that your child is not in the system yet. For example, let's say the July book order is placed on June 3. If you registered your child on June 1, you would have made that list and your book would have arrived in July, about four or five weeks later. However, if you registered your child on June 11, you would have missed the July order’s cut-off date and your child would be included in the August order. If the August book arrives on August 20, that’s a 10-week delay between when you registered and when the first book came. Also, there may be a delay in receipt of your registration form. If you mail your form directly to the Middletown Community Foundation or use the
online registration process, we receive it immediately. If another agency collects the form for you and forwards it to us, there may be a slight delay in our receiving it to get your child entered into the system.

My book arrived early in the month last month but now it’s mid-month and it hasn’t come yet. Why?
The program ships 750,000 books every month, so the time they arrive varies greatly depending on when the books arrive at their Tennessee shipping location, how long it takes to address them, and then the order in which they are sent to the post office for mailing. Sometimes they can arrive the first week of the month and sometimes it might be as late as the third or fourth week of the month.

I have two children in my home registered and the first one’s book has come but not the second one. Why?
Again, because the program ships 750,000 books every month – an endeavor that takes a considerable length of time to sort, label, address, and mail each one – your first child’s book may have been processed in the first books for that month and the second child’s book processed in the last books for the month, so they could arrive as many as two or three weeks apart.

Can you tell me what books will be sent next month?
No. Although the Dollywood Foundation plans which book will be sent each month of the year, sometimes shipping or printing delays cause a book that was planned for Month A to have to be sent out in Month B instead. For that reason, they do not release a list of books by month in advance.

 What can I do other than just read to my child with the books?
That’s a wonderful question! Several of the titles have activity sheets available
here that you may use to engage your child with fun things to do with the books. Even without an activity sheet, some things you can do include talking about the illustrations in the book, making up songs about the story, asking your child questions about the pictures or about the story, or asking your child to “read” the book to you by letting him or her make up a story to go along with the pictures. Most of the books also have United Way Born Learning reading tips printed in the inside folds. You can do a lot more than just "reading" when you’re reading!

Why is reading to my baby important?
Research has shown that the first five years – and especially the first three years – of life are among the most important for proper brain development. This is the time when their brains are growing faster than they will for the rest of their lives, so they need proper stimulation to encourage proper growth. Even though you may think a three month old or six month old might not be getting much out of reading, studies have shown that a 3-year-old’s vocabulary is a direct result of the number of words to which he or she has been exposed during those first three years of life, and the level of a child’s vocabulary at age 3 also correlates to his or her reading level in the third grade. In simpler terms, the amount of time you spend with your child exposing them to language in the first three years is believed to have a direct result on how well they will perform in elementary school several years later! A report on the impact of the program on local families is available
here.

How many children are in Middletown’s Imagination Library?

We currently have about 2,500 local children from all over Middletown, Monroe, Trenton, Madison and Franklin registered for the program. Since starting, about 2,000 have reached age 5 and “graduated,” and an additional 1,000 who moved away, so we have touched the lives of more than 5,500 local children since our first Imagination Library books were mailed to Middletown homes in January 2009! In that time, we’ve also sent more than 100,000 books to local children! If your child is not registered, sign up here.

Imagination Library Frequently Asked Questions