Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation. The Dollywood Foundation was created in 1988 by Dolly Parton to inspire the children in her home county to achieve educational success. Initial efforts focused on decreasing the dropout rate in the county’s high school. In the early 1990’s, Dolly promised every 7th grade and 8th grade student $500 if they successfully graduated from high school. This effort, called the Buddy Program, reduced the dropout rate for these two classes from 35% to 6%. More importantly, the program catalyzed the community to provide additional resources to sustain this improvement in the dropout rate.
In 1995, The Foundation implemented Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee. This monthly book gifting program for children under the age of five was designed to inspire a love of reading and learning for all preschool children in the county. What was founded as a local program became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort was underway, and by 2003 Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had mailed one million books. It would prove to be the first of many millions of books sent to children around the world.
Dolly’s home state of Tennessee pledged to pursue statewide coverage in 2004 and shortly after, global expansion was on the horizon. After the United States, the program launched in Canada in 2006 followed by the United Kingdom in 2007. Australia’s program was launched in 2013 with the Republic of Ireland joining in 2019.
In 2022, 1 out of every 10 children under the age of five in the USA received an Imagination Library book from Dolly each month equating to over 2 million books being mailed per month to every state! By early 2023, the total books gifted globally since inception reached its 200 million milestone! Through the unique partnerships among The Foundation, the publisher, the fulfillment centers and thousands of Local Program Partners, it continues to be the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation.