Partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library: Interview with Hannah Rajput
1. What is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library? Can you share with us a bit about this program?
The Imagination Library is a book-gifting program that mails high-quality, age-appropriate books to registered children until their fifth birthday. The program was created in 1995 by Dolly Parton and was initially only offered where she grew up, in Sevier County, Tennessee. She wanted to spread a love of reading and improve literacy rates. Demand for the program was huge, and it rapidly expanded to the rest of Tennessee, then the rest of the US by 2000. The Imagination Library came to Canada in 2006 and is offered in the Republic of Ireland, the UK, and Australia. The Dollywood Foundation is responsible for selecting, ordering, and shipping books. They also provide an online database and website.
The Imagination Library needs a ‘Local Champion.’ This is an individual in a community who says “Wow, what a great program! I would love to have the Imagination Library in my community.” This local champion is responsible for contacting their Imagination Library Regional Coordinator, setting up the database, fundraising for the cost of books and mailing fees, and enrolling children in their community. I am very excited to see how we can grow this program in Saskatoon to meet the needs of our community, support early literacy, and complement other great community initiatives.
2. How did you get involved with the Imagination Library?
I first heard about the program when I was watching Dolly’s 2020 Christmas special. She said a few words about the program and talked about how her dad inspired her to start it. Dolly grew up in the Tennessee mountains and her dad was a farmer. Despite him never knowing how to read, Dolly described her father as one of the smartest men she ever knew. It bothered her father that he didn’t have the opportunity to learn to read, so Dolly wanted to start a program to improve literacy skills in her home county. I was touched by her story and thought the Imagination Library was such a great idea. A few weeks later, I was reading the special edition of People Magazine for Dolly’s 75th birthday and was reminded of the program. I went online and a quick search showed me that it wasn’t yet offered in Saskatoon.
The website laid out the steps needed to bring the program to a community and I reached out to the coordinator for the Imagination Library in Canada to let her know I was interested. I then contacted READ Saskatoon to see if they would partner with me to bring the program to Saskatoon. I am very grateful they offered their support for this project. After a few administrative steps, I got to send off an email to an Imagination Library telling them we were ready to launch! I contacted READ Saskatoon and the regional coordinator in early January, and we got the program up and running by late February (which I am told is record time).
3. What drew you to READ Saskatoon?
READ Saskatoon is known as the expert in Saskatoon for offering accessible literacy programs. Their expertise has been gained through years of experience running free literacy programming and collaborating with about 100 community partners throughout the province. Although I am ambitious and passionate about supporting literacy, I had no experience doing anything like this. Since the Imagination Library aligns perfectly with READ Saskatoon’s mission of valuing, promoting, and supporting literacy, I reached out with a proposed partnership and they accepted. READ Saskatoon provided me with valuable advice to help get the program started. They contacted other community organizations to ensure a variety of communities had the opportunity to register and keep in touch to plan for the future. READ Saskatoon also provided the first year of funding to help get the program started. This allowed us to launch the program much earlier and provide over 100 children with books for a year!
4. Why did you get involved with the program?
I am lucky enough to have grown up in a house full of books and raised by parents who love to read. This instilled a love and passion for reading and allowed me to develop critical literacy skills from a young age. These skills have been instrumental for my success in school and beyond. Reading can take you so many places, as Dolly notes, “If you can read, you can find books on anything you want. You can even self-educate if you can’t afford to go to school.” This really emphasizes the importance of literacy skills; they create opportunities for families and individuals to make informed decisions to improve their lives.
Aside from the program itself, I just love Dolly Parton. I have great respect for what she has done to improve the lives of others, and I really just want to make her proud.
5. Where is the Imagination Library available in Saskatchewan currently?
The imagination Library is currently offered in over 9 locations across the province. You can find the availability in your area by entering your postal code or clicking learn more beside one of the local Champions listed. There are over 600 kids enrolled in Saskatchewan!
Find My Program - Canada (imaginationlibrary.com) – Click Saskatchewan on the map for the list of local Champions.
6. How can people donate to the program?
There are a few ways people can donate. Donations can be made:
- Directly through our profile on the Imagination Library site.
- Through READ Saskatoon’s donation page on their website, you just have to choose Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in the ‘fund’ drop-down menu.
- Through READ Saskatoon’s page on Canada Helps, again you must choose Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in the drop-down menu under ‘Apply your donation to a fund set up by this charity.' READ Saskatoon is currently taking part in the Canada Helps Great Canadian Giving Challenge: For every $1 donated during the month of June, READ Saskatoon gets entered for a chance to win $20,000.
- In addition to donating directly, READ Saskatoon has a great fundraising campaign through Sarcan using their drop and go feature. All you have to do is use the group phrase ‘Literacy’ when prompted, and your deposit refund will go directly to the Imagination Library! Since the overhead fees for the Imagination Library are paid for by the Dollywood Foundation, all the money we raise goes directly towards book and mailing costs for kids in our community!
7. What is your favourite Dolly Parton song?
My favourite song has got to be 9 to 5, but I also love Dumb Blonde.