For Kids Community Orgs

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Open to E.C., Dunn Co. Kids

local families with kids under 5 can sign up for a free book each month

Kelly Carlson |

READ IT AND LEAP. Dolly Parton's Imagination
READ IT AND LEAP. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Program is coming to town. (Photos via Facebook)

Books can too easily be overlooked as an emphasis in a child’s early development. Reading books with your own child or even just having books around the house allows kids to look through them, develop curiosity, and learn. 

“The research is that the number of books a child has in their home is really predictive of their future success,” said Jennifer Eddy, executive director of The Family Resource Center in Eau Claire. Enter Dolly Parton, country singer and actress extraordinaire from Tennessee, who saw her father struggle to make ends meet in life. He never learned how to read, Parton said his literacy level held him back from success in life.

Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995 to encourage reading and to ensure low-income or working families have access to books. “Her vision is for all kids to have access to great educational reading,” Eddy said. “So, with her foundation, they put together an age-appropriate reading list with a wide variety of attractive titles and the books come (in the mail) to the kid — not the parent.”

Children enrolled in the program get a free book each month. “From (Dolly’s) first vision … now, 7% of children under 5 living in the United States are part of that program,” Eddy said. As of Oct. 1, families in Eau Claire and Dunn counties have been able to sign up for the program, thanks to funding from the Pablo Foundation. Since the initial start-up date of Oct. 1, nearly 1,600 kids in the two counties have signed up. 

“We team up with the postmasters for all the zip codes in this area,” Eddy said, as part of the process for mailing each title each month. “We keep track of all the spreadsheets of the kids who are involved … and it takes 6-8 weeks for kids to get approved. Each age group receives a different book in the mail, but if you have two kiddos of the same age, they have to share the same title each month. 

“The first one is The Little Engine That Could, and is all about how it doesn’t matter if you’re small or if people think you can’t do something, because you really can,” she said. 

And, when kids graduate from the program at age 5, there’s a little graduation celebration hosted at the library to celebrate them going off to kindergarten and beyond.

“This is a fun, positive, child-centered way to promote reading,” Eddy said. “It’s regardless of income level so all children can get this benefit.”

Families in Eau Claire and Dunn counties can sign up for the Imagination Library through the Family Resource Center in Oakwood Mall (4800 Golf Road) in Eau Claire. To learn more about this program, visit To sign up and to learn more about The Family Resource Center visit or swing by next time you’re at the mall.