Children ages 5 and under living in Natrona County are now eligible to receive free books, thanks to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Natrona County Library’s new affiliation with the global program.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free books to children’s homes up until they reach age 5, or school age, in participating communities within the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Republic of Ireland.
Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, Dolly started her Imagination Library in 1995 for the children within her home county. Today, her program mails more than 1 million free, high-quality books each month to children around the world until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.
Becoming a local affiliate
Natrona County Library became a local affiliate after receiving a grant from the Natrona Collective Health Trust to cover the $25 cost per child per year, with absolutely no cost to families receiving the books.
The Natrona Collective Health Trust became an official champion of bringing the Imagination Library to Natrona County after their CEO, Meredith Benton, saw the success of the program in her previous Tennessee community where she also served as the head of a health conversion trust.
“Our advocacy work is primarily focused on the prevention and mitigation of adverse childhood experiences,” says Benton, “and one of the ways to counteract those negative experiences is by creating positive experiences – like parents and caregivers reading to their children.”
The importance of early literacy
Early literacy is also one of the number one indicators of educational and lifelong success.
“By having books in the home and encouraging adults to read to their kids, we’re hoping that when they enter kindergarten, they will be ready to read,” said Scroggins. “Essentially when children enter school ready for kindergarten it’s a good indicator they’ll be reading at grade level by the third grade, and that’s when you make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn, so I’m glad we’re finally able to get the program started here.”
The Library and Natrona Collective Health Trust are partnering with other community groups and organizations to help spread the word, including the Natrona County School District, the Department of Family Services, the Natrona County Health Department, and more.
Currently, all children from birth to age 5 living in Natrona County are eligible for the program, with over 500 enrolled so far. As of August 2022, the Imagination Library has gifted 188,754,464 books to young children across the globe.