State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced Tuesday that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is investing $2.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds to expand Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
The OSDE will provide a 1:1 match of all funds raised by local community partners, ensuring as many as 264,000 Oklahoma children from birth to age 5 have free, high-quality, age-appropriate books mailed to their homes on a monthly basis.
“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in well-documented learning disruptions. The impacts on our youngest learners are particularly troubling and appear to be most severe among our most vulnerable student populations,” said Hofmeister. “These challenges underscore the need for robust early literacy interventions to help our get kids back on track. We are thrilled to partner with Dolly Parton, one of the world’s most noted supporters of early literacy, to help our kids build critical literacy skills before they ever step foot in Pre-K.”
Entertainer, businessperson and philanthropist Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library program in 1995 as a way to distribute books to the impoverished Tennessee County where she grew up. The state of Tennessee quickly adopted the program statewide. To date, the Imagination Library has mailed more than 178 million free books to children across three continents. Oklahoma is the 12th state to commit to achieving statewide coverage.
“I’m so excited to be working with Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education to bring my Imagination Library to Oklahoma. Together let’s inspire a love of reading and learning in every child in Oklahoma,” said Parton.
The Imagination Library’s unique funding structure centers on community partnerships. Worldwide, nearly 2,000 local affiliate programs enroll families and raise program costs of $2.10 per book per month. With the OSDE’s 1:1 match, each Oklahoma affiliate will be responsible for just $1.05 per child per month. Thirteen affiliates are currently operating in Oklahoma, serving more than 4,000 of the state’s eligible children under age 5, with another six affiliates in process. Children enrolled in an active affiliate are also eligible for the OSDE matching funds.
The Imagination Library of Oklahoma was authorized under 2020 legislation, 70 OS § 3-104.10 and § 3-104.11, authored by Sen. John Haste and Rep. Tammy Townley.
The OSDE’s investment in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Oklahoma will be funded through 2024 and is a component ofReady Together Oklahoma: An Action Plan for Supporting Students Through the Pandemic and Beyond.For additional information about statewide expansion of the Imagination Library of Oklahoma, click here.
About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world. In partnership with local community affiliates, the program has gifted well over 178 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and The Republic of Ireland.
Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, Dolly Parton started her Imagination Library in 1995 to foster a love of reading for the children within her home county. Today, her program mails over 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month directly to children’s homes. Each child enrolled in the program receives one book per month until their fifth birthday – at no cost to families.
The impact of the program has been widely researched, and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com.