One of the most successful early literacy initiatives in the world, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will this week dedicate its 100 Millionth Book to the US Library of Congress in a ceremony to be streamed live on both YouTube and Facebook.

The renowned musician founded the program in 1995 with the aim of bringing free, quality books to children aged 0 – 5 in her home state of Tennessee. The Imagination Library has since expanded to Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, now delivering more than 1 million books a month to families worldwide.

In Australia, almost 200,000 books have been delivered since the program was launched by United Way in 2013, with partners now supporting Imagination Libraries across 51 communities. Australian book leaders such as Penguin Random House, Wombat Books and more than 70 children’s authors including Mem Fox, Harrison Craig and Julian Lennon are championing the initiative to ensure the program reaches more children Australia-wide.

For thousands of children in families facing financial hardship and social disadvantage, these books provide a critical opportunity to overcome the odds and build the early literacy and numeracy skills needed to thrive in school and beyond.

I don’t know all states of Australia before but I know it when I read those books with my kids. The kids feel like (they are) belonging, from the books.

Armani , Harijah and Hayley, Doveton VIC

In Doveton, VIC, the program is benefitting newly-arrived migrant and refugee families, who often face language barriers in addition to limited resources. As part of the program, the Imagination Library also provides parents and carers with monthly Tip Sheets and additional support for parents to engage in shared reading. In Acacia Ridge, QLD, where almost 2 in 5 children start school developmentally vulnerable – twice the national average – the program has reached over 600 local children, playing a vital educational role given the community currently lacks a public library.

But while the program has expanded across Australia, there are still many more communities seeking funding to bring the Imagination Library to local children. Currently more than 60,000 children – or 1 out of every 5 – start school unprepared each year. Shared reading through programs such as the Imagination Library have proved one of the most effective ways to build the early education and developmental skills needed to thrive.

The dedication of the 100 Millionth Book to US Congress will take place Tuesday 27th February at 10am (US Eastern Time), with dignitaries and partners of the Imagination Library on hand to celebrate. In addition to presenting the 100 Millionth Book, Dolly is expected to read a very special book to a group of local school children who will be part of the celebration.

To help us bring more new books into the hands of Australian children from birth, you can make a donation or find out more about starting your own local Imagination Library.

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