Thoughtful Parenting: Imagination Library program to boost local literacy |

Thoughtful Parenting: Imagination Library program to boost local literacy

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss

Routt County United Way’s Women United is excited to bring an effective and tested early childhood literacy program to Routt County children. Imagination Library was founded by Dolly Parton and has its roots in her hometown, where it was so effective in fostering literacy in children during their critical early development years that it has now gained national praise and recognition and has spread to cities and communities around the country and world.

Dolly Parton grew up in a low-income household with illiterate parents. Knowing how difficult it is to grow up in a home without being able to read or write, let alone afford books, Parton wanted to help the children in her home community. The program now helps children of all income levels and backgrounds, and has gained measurable traction in improving children’s literacy and success in school.

How does it work?

In partnership with Women United, a local United Way affinity group, Routt County United Way is implementing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Routt County. The program delivers age-appropriate books to enrolled families once a month from birth until 5 years of age. Books are selected by a national literacy committee to be age-appropriate and engaging for both children and their parents. The books include classic titles that parents grew up reading, such as “The Little Engine That Could,” as well as more contemporary books that address childhood learning experiences, including sharing, bullying and growing up.

The most effective aspect of the Imagination Library is that the books are absolutely free to the enrolled families and are delivered directly to their homes in the child’s name. Routt County United Way will incur the costs of the books for our 1,350 children in Routt County so that families can enjoy up to 60 books by the time their child reaches 5 years of age.

Local Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) scores have demonstrated that 39% of children in Routt County are below appropriate reading level when they start kindergarten. The Imagination Library is an essential step to reducing this percentage. Studies have shown that the Imagination Library and similar programs have substantially increased school preparedness and literacy for children entering kindergarten.

Significant benefits

The Imagination Library not only benefits children by improving their speaking skills and preparing them for kindergarten, it also benefits their parents. Imagination Library books are delivered to houses, providing a convenient and effortless way for parents to acquire reading material.

Also, the books are for the families to keep, an important aspect because studies have verified that having books in the home improves early childhood literacy. Furthermore, the books come with helpful tips for parents on how to engage their children in a reading discussion and how to read with their children instead of to their children.

Getting involved

The Imagination Library will be available to all children between the ages of birth and age 5 in Routt County starting this month.

You can help by giving the gift of literacy to children in Routt County. The cost of the program is just $25 per child per year, supplying the child with 12 books per year, two of which are bilingual. A gift of $125 would support one child through the full five-year program.

Child registration events will begin this month throughout the county. To give the gift of literacy to local children or to view a list of upcoming registration events, please visit:

Ali Schrader is the program manager for Routt County United Way and can be reached at or 970-879-5605.

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