Ready to Read

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Bringing home the magic of reading

Putting a book in a child’s hand opens a whole new world to them. An Imagination Library delivered by United Way, brings the magic of reading into Australian homes – kick-starting a lifelong love of reading, and creating an evidence-based pathway for a child’s success in later life.

Started by musician and author Dolly Parton in the USA in 1996, the Imagination Library now supports nearly 2 million children across the US, UK, Canada, Ireland and Australia. The Australian program is tailored to an Australian audience, with Australian content, including a focus on First Nation’s authors and illustrators.

Dolly Parton sits in a patterned chair holding a book
A little girl sits on the floor, surrounded by a pile a books

Sparking the potential in every child

22% of Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable. These children are born with the same capacity for learning as their peers, but don’t get the same literacy building blocks to carry throughout life.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps us to find ways to spark the potential of children who might otherwise be left behind.
Research tells us that the first 2,000 days of a child’s life are vital for brain development, and the impact on the next 80-plus years is profound. The simple act of regularly reading to a child opens up a whole new world.

Receiving their own book each month allows a child to make that world their own. Deliver this in a structured, nurturing way for five years before school and that child’s trajectory can change completely.

A little girl smiles at the camera

I feel so privileged to be apart of the program and know that my child’s development is supported and will improve dramatically with daily reading. Each time a book arrives I’m reminded that my community cares about my child, and that the investment of reading daily will result in higher chances of success in his future. It’s a win/win! Books can be so much fun, it supports me in engaging with my baby and gives me the tools to ensure his language, learning and literacy contain to improve.

A woman and a little girl hug each other, smiling

Learning to learn

We know that there’s no better way to prepare a child for school than teaching them to read. It’s a powerful first step towards success at school, and beyond.

By putting a book into a child’s hand each month over 5 years, we give them a head start on their learning journey. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library supports parents and carers to be a child’s first teacher. It is a preparation for learning that helps to make reading a habit for children from birth.

Children receive up to 60 carefully staged books that are hand-picked by a committee of academics, authors, Indigenous advisors, teachers and librarians ensuring they reflect the diversity of the wider community and include themes and concepts that support developing minds to grow.

United Way also engages dedicated support co-ordinators with reading tips, alongside digital resources to enable the greatest impact.

It’s a simple truth; learning itself is a skill. Being read to is the very first step in a child’s journey of learning to learn.