Bangor, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills joined American icon Dolly Parton today to officially launch a Maine statewide expansion of the singer-songwriter's namesake Imagination Library book-gifting program.
During an event at the Bangor Public Library, Governor Mills announced that 4,500 eligible Maine children are currently receiving free, high-quality, age-appropriate books through the program, which is respected as the world's preeminent, international early childhood book-gifting program. At Governor Mills' direction, the Maine State Library is working to expand the program to all sixteen counties.
Governor Mills was joined at the kickoff by State Librarian Lori Fisher and Dollywood Foundation Regional Director Lauren Wirt. Dolly Parton addressed participants by video.
"My mother introduced me to the library, encouraged me to read books of every kind, and instilled in me a lifelong love of reading. I'm thrilled to help expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library across our state so that thousands of Maine children can strengthen their reading skills and learn to love reading,"said Governor Janet Mills. "I thank the one-and-only Dolly Parton for working with my Administration to bring this important program to Maine.
"A lot of good people worked to make this possible, but I want to send my personal thanks to Governor Janet Mills who helped make this dream a reality for children and families across Maine," said Dolly Parton.
"Maine State Library is excited to facilitate the expansion of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Maine," said Maine State Librarian Lori Fisher. "Early literacy opportunities are vital to child development, and we are pleased to work with the current affiliates and the Dollywood Foundation to engage new affiliates so that the program can expand to all counties in Maine over the next few years."
Following today's announcement, the Governor read to local children at the Bangor Public Library to celebrate the program and highlight the importance of child literacy.
Last summer, Governor Mills announced that Maine would expand the program statewide in 2023 during a virtual discussion with Parton at the 2023 National Governor's Association Summer Meeting in Portland.
In the bipartisan budget passed last year, Governor Mills proposed, and the Legislature approved, a $200,000 investment to implement the program, which is administered by the Maine State Library. Together, The Dollywood Foundation and the Maine State Library are executing an implementation strategy with local libraries, community non-profits, the Maine Department of Education, and school systems – to establish and expand the program in the coming years.
Currently, over 4,500 eligible children in Maine are receiving free books through 12 local partners across the state. The Maine State Library and the Dollywood Foundation are working to expand the program statewide, with an immediate goal of enrolling 65% of eligible children (63,932) as quickly as possible.
To find out if the program is available to them, Maine families can visit www.imaginationlibrary.com. If the program is not yet available, they can sign up to be notified when the program expands to their community.
The Imagination Library builds on the Mills Administration's commitment to increasing childhood literacy in Maine, including investing $10 million through the Governor's Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to create and expand pre-school programs across Maine.
Last fall, my Administration the "Literacy for ME 2.0" to revamp its statewide literacy plan and created the Maine Association for Improving Literacy to mobilize a network of educators who are committed to supporting statewide literacy efforts.
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.
According to The Dollywood Foundation, 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by the age of five, making that time period critically important for their development that can be enhanced by reading books. The Foundation notes that daily readings by parents or caregivers provide the greatest opportunity to prepare their child for school and that literacy is a major social determinant of health and economic impact in the long-term.
About Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has gifted well over 182 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland. The Imagination Library mails more than 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to enrolled children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring children to dream more, learn more, care more and be more. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com.