Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

A book gifting program encouraging reading habits and early literacy development in the home.

Program details

  • Priority area: Communication
  • Primary audience: Educators, parents/carers, children
  • Delivery mode: Resources (books, kits, manuals)
  • Strength of evidence: Level 3 Promising research evidence
  • AEDC sub-domains:
    • Language and cognitive development basic literacy
    • Language and cognitive development interest in literacy/numeracy and memory
    • Language and cognitive development advanced literacy
    • Communication skills and general knowledge
  • Item cost: Low (<$200 per person/item)

Program description

Founded by musician Dolly Parton in 1996, this program encourages reading habits by gifting children a brand-new book every month in the first 5 years before school. It also supports parents/carers as their child's first and most important teacher.

For services accessing the Imagination Library through SRF, the provider sends children a new age-appropriate book, with their name on it, every month to their homes. Each book comes with a tip sheet to help parents/carers get the most out of the book. Kindergarten services can choose to have all children at their service receive the same book each month, or have 2 titles each month (for example, one for 3-year-old kinder and one for 4-year-old kinder). Services can also purchase one or more sample copies to be delivered to their service each month. This allows educators to plan activities around the book everyone has at home.

Minimum program length is 6 months with a maximum length of 10 months. Services should make contact at least 2 months before their intended start date to allow time for database setup and book fulfilment.

Detailed cost

Fixed at $9 per month per registration (child/book), including postage (6-month minimum term).

There is an annual set-up cost of $250 (excluding GST) per kindergarten service. Registration includes digital resources to explain the importance of reading to parents/carers, and a monthly email allowing services to plan activities around the books they will be receiving. Further educator resources are available to participating services via our online portal.

Services can also buy a copy of the monthly book for their centre(s), which can encourage further reading, engagement and learning activities.

A cost calculator will be provided as part of the EOI process.

Implementation considerations

  • Target population: children, parents/carers, educators.
  • Program/practice description and details: services can draw on the monthly books for integrated learning, and use tip sheets to help children build on their reading habits. Minimum program length is 6 months with a maximum length of 12 months. Most services order one sample book per room/group at their centre, as having the book displayed and used at the service can help engage children and parents/carers in the program and encourage further reading at home.
  • Staffing: services must enter registrations on the secure database, and update the database with new enrolments or address changes.
  • Factors to consider: this resource targets early literacy development in the home. Services may need to plan how to help parents/carers develop effective book-sharing skills. The provider also encourages services to partner with local public libraries and help parents/carers sign up their child, to further prepare them to become independent learners ahead of school.
  • Training requirements: service staff will be setup to manage their centre's secure Book Ordering System (BOS) database. The provider will supply a user guide and are available to assist with database set up and support as needed.
  • Australian experience: the program started in the United States, and has been run by United Way Australia for the past 10 years. The program now delivers more than 30,000 books every month across the country.
  • Tools and systems: Book Ordering System (BOS) is the secure database used to manage all registrations. It can be accessed through any internet browser, and is best accessed on desktop not mobile devices.

VEYLDF alignment

Item uses these practice principles

  • Partnerships with families
  • High expectations for every child

Item responds to these sub-outcomes

  • Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work
  • Children engage with a range of texts and get meaning from these texts.

Updated