Dolly Parton’s free book program for kids expanding in Maine

Maine is teaming up with Parton to give young children free books.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 12:04 PM EDT
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Maine (WABI) - Maine is partnering with iconic singer-songwriter Dolly Parton.

During a virtual discussion Friday at the National Governor’s Association meeting in Portland, Governor Mills announced the state is launching a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 2023.

The Imagination Library of Maine will mail high-quality, age appropriate books to children from birth until age five every month, no matter their family’s income.

As part of the recent bipartisan budget, a $200,000 investment to implement the program will be administered by the Maine State Library.

The Dollywood Foundation and the Maine State Library will work with the Maine Department of Education, local libraries, school systems, and community non-profits to establish and expand the program.

The goal is to send 106,000 books to more than 14,000 children across Maine by the end of 2023.

Maine is the 13th state to commit to achieving statewide coverage of the program.

In 2019, about 57 percent of fourth grade students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels while 33 percent of students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels. However, Maine is ranked fifth in the nation for the percentage of parents with children aged 0 to 5 who read to their children every day (46.9 percent).

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library 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, and, since then, the nonprofit program has expanded into five countries.

As of June 2022, the Imagination Library has gifted 184,615,046 books with over 2 million kids currently registered.

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