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Wayne County's Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program gets statewide attention

Imagination Library logo from Louisville

      State lawmakers and Louisville's WAVE TV have been quoting a success story from Wayne County Schools regarding data collected at Walker Early Learning Center, this month. The local children who have been enrolled in the Imagination Library have performed at least five percent better on average than children who were not enrolled in the program. Those scores continue to be reflected all the way throughout their school years, too.

      Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger has been correlating this data for quite a while and was happy to share the findings with her regional contact with the Imagination Library, Christy Crouse, as well as Co-Founder of Louisville’s Imagination Library Bill Shory. 

      Crouse said, “Wayne County has embraced the true spirit of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. The parents, businesses, and educational leaders of Wayne County recognize that this program is a gift intended for all children because all children need books.”

       Local contributions and funding from Wayne County Schools have supported this valuable program. The Wayne County Extension Service hosts a Farm to Fork dinner each fall where donations are collected and a silent auction is held with the proceeds going to the program. Also, the successful “Scarecrow Trail” entrée fees, sponsored by ‘Tis the Season Shop, add to the local donations. The Public Library also furnishes the promotional brochure that families can use to sign up for the program.

      It’s a win-win situation for the school district which focuses on reading and the community who reap the rewards.

      Walker Early Learning Principal Angela Ballinger said, “We currently have 630 children enrolled in the book program. We are in our seventh year and have 981 students who have graduated from the program. The majority of our 0-5-year-old population are enrolled in this program. According to census data, 70 percent of our county’s birth rate figures are signed up to receive books.”

      “Those are great figures. Most communities reach around 50-60 percent of their total eligible population. You are trending with our national data,” noted Crouse.

     “I cannot say enough good things about your school and the leadership provided by Angela Ballinger. The staff recognizes that books in the home change the trajectory of children’s lives,” said Crouse. Not only are you building lifelong learners but you are having a ripple effect on your community. Early childhood literacy has an educational, social and economic impact on communities. Angela and your team get the big picture of why books in the home are so important.”

     With Wayne County being able to document some positive results from the program, others used local data to help support their efforts. That eventually led to coverage through WAVE 3 News who were helping bring the program to Louisville. That led to Kentucky Senator Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) trying to extend the program to the rest of the state. 

      Board President/Co-Founder of Imagination Library of Louisville, Inc. Bill Shory said they are excited to get this program. He appreciated the data from Wayne County to help grow the program.

      “The program thrives in both rural and urban communities. All children need books,” noted Crouse.

      “It’s great to have a success story in Kentucky,” said Shory, referring to Wayne County. He said there is no difference between Jefferson County and Wayne County when it comes to kids who get excited about reading and the benefits of broadening their knowledge base through an accessibility to books at a young age.

     "Wayne County is just helping it get a little closer" to spreading across the state. Wayne County's success has been repeated in conversations within the legislative chambers as legislators agreed to fund the expansion program for one year across the state.

     “I’m so glad our results are helping children in other places receive books,” said Principal Ballinger. “We are passionate about learning to read at Walker Early Learning Center.”


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library awaits Beshear's signature to expand statewide

Parent and child reading a book

When a child is signed up for the Imagination Library, they get a book every month from birth through the age of 5. That means they are building their own personal library. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

By Shannon Cogan (March 16, 2021)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Many parents put their young children to bed with a book. The goal of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is to make that possible for every single child by sending free books to homes with kids age 5 years old and under.

WAVE 3 News helped bring the program to Louisville, and now it looks like it will expand to the entire state.

Kentucky Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) is a father of three kids and has read more than his fair share of children’s books.

“Every parent knows this: if your kid has a favorite book, you end up memorizing that book because you read it to them over and over again. They’re hearing that language, hearing that concept,” McGarvey said Tuesday.

Now, with the help of McGarvey and the support of Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), state legislators have agreed to fund for one year the expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Kentucky. It’s now waiting for Governor Andy Beshear’s signature.

The program mails a free age-appropriate book to children under 5 years old every month.

“There was a study done in Wayne county, Kentucky, and they took kids who were in the Imagination Library, and they did 5% better on kindergarten readiness tests than people who didn’t have access to Imagination Library, and those scores continued all the way throughout [school],” McGarvey said.

This would be a private/public partnership with the state providing $800,000 and the Imagination Library affiliates, including the one in Louisville, would provide funding as well.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library said the funding plan is similar to what’s already in place in Tennessee, North Carolina, Delaware, Ohio, Arkansas and soon Colorado and Oklahoma.

“We’re growing very quickly and it’s just a joy to be part of the growth,” Jeff Conyers with Imagination Library said.

The goal is to get the program up and going in the first year, and then hopefully in one year it will be added to the budget again for two years, allowing every single household in the state who wants to be in the program to sign up.

If you’d like to see if your child is eligible, go to the website at Once the money is finalized, more zip codes will be added.

Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

By Sarah Jackson | March 31, 2020 at 9:38 AM EDT - Updated March 31 at 9:38 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Dolly Parton is reading bedtime stories in a new YouTube series.

The read-aloud program called Goodnight with Dolly is set to run 10 weeks starting April 2 and will feature stories including “The Little Engine that Could” and Parton’s own “Coat of Many Colors.”

Dolly started the Imagination Library Program in 1995 which mails out free books to children around the world.

WAVE 3 News is a proud partner of the program. To learn more, click here.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

(Reprinted with Permission from WAVE TV)

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