“Before he passed away, my daddy told me the Imagination Library was probably the most important thing I’ve ever done. Now I can’t tell you how much that means to me, because I created the library as a tribute to my daddy.”
That’s country star Dolly Parton, who is joining up with the Madison Reading Project to get books into the hands of every child under the age of five in Dane County.
The Madison Reading Project is a nonprofit that began in 2014 and has since delivered over 250,000 books. This new partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library aims to give the project more reach across Dane County, covering some of the costs of logistics and buying and printing books.
Rowan Childs, the Executive Director and Founder of the Madison Reading Project says the extra support makes purchasing and shipping the books much more affordable.
While she could not give me an exact number, Childs says that the Madison Reading Project provides around $2-3 per child per month towards the project, while Imagination Library provides the rest of the money. The Madison Reading Project will also be in charge of local outreach, and signing up local families to the program.
The project offers a wide range of new books available for kids, from hardcover picture books for infants to fiction and nonfiction books aimed at middle school kids at a higher reading level.
Childs says that there are a variety of ways the project gets the books to kids.
“The way we get (books) out is through all different community partners, so all different school districts, social workers, food banks, after school programs. We also have a little free library program, (and) in the warmer months we are out and about with our big red reading bus going to all sorts of public events. We also have individual requests that we often help with that come into the center, from teachers and parents as well,” Childs says.
The Madison Reading Project will continue to do all the programs they already have, but will now include sending books through the mail.
The new partnership looks to get kids under the age of five one free book every month. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library first launched in 1995, and has so far given away over 172 million books to children across the world. Childs says the projects are both excited to be working together.
“We are absolutely working with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, we feel that our missions align very nicely. From the very beginning it’s been for us to encourage kids to read and to find their love of reading, and Dolly Parton’s mission is very similar to that. So it’s nice to see how these organizations will be able to work together and hopefully be able to run this program for a very long time,” Childs says.
The project provides books to all children from birth until five years old, and parents can even sign up before their child is born. The new program begins today, and Childs says that within the first hour, over 200 families had already signed up for the new program.
But don’t worry, books aren’t running out any time soon. Childs says that there is no deadline to sign up, and that everyone who does sign up will be able to get their monthly books. The program is currently only open to residents of Dane county, and parents can register for the program on The Madison Reading Project’s website.
Photos courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News