Building libraries and a love of reading

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library creates children's libraries in countless homes across Ogle County.

The seeds of success in life are planted at birth. While experiences and obstacles, developed relationships, and community support are all vital for an individual to be successful, there’s a very simple addition to life that can significantly improve one’s chances of being happy and healthy: books.

In 1995, Dolly Parton — one of the most-honored female country singers of all time — launched her ‘Imagination Library.’ Originally benefiting the children of her home county in East Tennessee, the program now fosters a love of reading in countless communities across the globe.

Imagination Library mails free books to children from birth to age five every month — one million free books to be exact. The newest community to join that movement is Ogle County, thanks to a partnership between United Way of Rock River Valley and SwedishAmerican.

By sending age-appropriate books to children each month in Ogle County, some of our youngest residents are not only developing important language, reading, and writing skills, but they’re able to build their own at-home libraries.

Looking at early literacy development, research shows a connection between infants mouthing books, the book handling behavior of a two year old, and the page turning and comprehension ability of a five year old. The first five years of exploring with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, and recognizing words are the building blocks for language and literacy development.

“I know there are children in every community with dreams. They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer,” says Parton. “The seeds of those dreams are often found in books and the seeds we help plant in our communities can grow across the world.”

126,474,278 books have been mailed across the globe to children from birth to age five since Dolly Parton's Imagination Library was formed in 1995.

To learn more about the program, go to