Photo courtesy of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Daisy Garcia Montoya 
Education Reporter

Families in Missouri can now register their children under five years old to receive a free book in the mail each month as part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is focused on providing children with age-appropriate books each month free of charge to increase literacy and cultivate a love for reading at a young age. The program was started in 1995 and has spanned across five countries with over two million children registered. 

After the Missouri legislature passed a bill establishing the program statewide in 2022, the legislature approved $11 million for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 2024 Fiscal Year budget in order to fully fund the program to allow children to participate completely free of charge. In doing so, Missouri became the 14th state to establish Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide and the first and only state to ensure there is no charge to participating children by fully funding the program. 

“I was so excited to hear that now every child in Missouri is eligible for my Imagination Library,” Dolly Parton said. “I want to personally thank the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Childhood, Governor Parson and everyone else involved for making this happen.”

Books are chosen each year by the Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee, a selected panel of childhood literacy experts, which review potential titles to include in the Imagination Library. To ensure books are age-appropriate, themes are aligned based on age groups and advance as the child gets older. Per the Imagination Library website, a child born in 2023 would receive a board book with simple text that focused on nurture and attachment with bright colors in comparison to a child born in 2018 who would receive a softcover picture book with introductions to more complex concepts. Book options also include bilingual books in English/Spanish.

“Ensuring young children are exposed to reading early in life sets students up for success down the road,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “Access to high-quality books is a huge part of that process.”

Since the Imagination Library has been available in some parts of the state, children who are currently registered in Missouri will be automatically enrolled in the new statewide program. 

By the time a child reaches their fifth birthday, if enrolled since birth, they will have completed the program with a collection of up to 60 books. 

There is no deadline to register and enrollment to the program can be done at any time for children aged 0-5 years old. After enrolling, books are mailed out every month to home and are personalized with the child’s name to provide a gifting experience to the child. To begin receiving books, a parent or guardian must register their child on the Imagination Library website