March 7, 2018 – Cedar Rapids children can now begin to build their personal library thanks to the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL).
DPIL mails more than 1 million books each month to children around the world. The free program provides one book each month mailed directly to the child’s home from birth until they turn five years old. Each book is carefully selected based on age and reading level, starting with The Little Engine That Could and ending with Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! on their fifth birthday.
In Cedar Rapids, one in four students does not read proficiently by third grade. In low income households, that increases to one in three. According to the most recent data from the 2016-17 school year, 45% of children entering kindergarten in Cedar Rapids were not ready.
“Reaching children at the youngest age possible, and providing them with ongoing resources necessary to advance towards literacy, is essential in combatting these statistics,” said Charity Tyler, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation. “In a middle-income neighborhood, the ratio of books to children is 13 books to one child; in a low-income neighborhood, the ratio is one book to 300 children. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides a child enrolled at birth with a personal library of 60 books before entering kindergarten.”
In 1995, Dolly Parton, through The Dollywood Foundation, launched Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in her home county in East Tennessee. The program was so successful that a national replication effort began in 2000. In 2005, the international book committee was formed, and by 2013, Imagination Library was mailing books to Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. Today, more than 1,196,000 children are enrolled.
The Dollywood Foundation covers overhead by providing the enrollment database, managing book selection, book ordering and the shipping processes, while our Library Foundation, through donor dollars, covers the costs of books and postage. Because The Dollywood Foundation operates in large-scale, they’ve been able to reduce Affiliate costs to approximately $25 per child per year.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library affiliates across the country have conducted studies on school readiness and grade level reading, comparing scores of Imagination Library participants and their non-registered peers. These studies show positive results for both the enrolled children and their families.
“The Imagination Library fills the birth to preschool gap that directly supports our community’s efforts to get every child ready to read and ready for school,” said Tyler. “Our hope is to replicate these positive results seen in other communities for families and children in Cedar Rapids.”
How It Works
To participate, children must be residents of Cedar Rapids and under five years of age.
To enroll, parents or guardians can fill out an official registration form and return it to the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Registration forms can be found at both library locations (Downtown and Ladd) and on our Library’s website CRLibrary.org/Imagination-Library.
A child’s first book should arrive between eight to ten weeks after registration. The only responsibilities of the parent or caregiver are to 1) read to their child and 2) call our Library with any address updates.
Making it Possible
The Dollywood Foundation works directly with nonprofit organizations to launch the Imagination Library in communities across the country. Locally, our Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation went through the process of becoming an Imagination Library Affiliate.
Cedar Rapids’ Imagination Library program launched with the support of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Program and Community Investment Funds in addition to generous support from several other donors. The Library Foundation will continue to rely on community support to sustain the program into the future.
About the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation
The Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation mobilizes community resources and relationships that empower our Library to deliver innovative programs and services. The Library Foundation serves as the vehicle through which private funds are used to enhance the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s collections, programs, and technologies while supporting the Library’s strategic initiatives. For more information, visit CRLibrary.org/Foundation or call 319.739.0411.