Imagination Library
Books open up a whole new world.

When a child has access to books, her world becomes larger and her imagination soars. She’s better prepared for school. She’s better prepared for life. In fact, research has shown that the number of books in a child’s home is significantly linked to reading scores. The more books, the better the score.

United Way of Greater St. Louis and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library want to help more kids have books in their homes. Through the program, books are delivered directly to the child’s home – one per month – until he’s 5 years old. That means, by the time he goes to kindergarten, he’ll have his own library full of wonderful worlds and far-off places. He’ll be more excited to read and to learn, setting him up for a productive future.


Corporate support

Corporate support of Imagination Library is an investment in the children – and the future – of our region. Your gift to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps provide carefully selected books to children in our community and helps ensure they are ready for school.

$15,000 = Books for 150 local children for five years
$45,000 = Books for 300 local children for five years
$75,000 = Books for 500 local children for five years

Contact Julie Russell at for more information regarding corporate support.

Imagination Library in United Way Early Childhood Learning Centers

Thanks to a $350,000/5-year commitment from Wells Fargo Advisors, the children at 19 United Way-funded childcare agencies will be eligible to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Those agencies serve approximately 2,400 children between birth and age 5 who are eligible to receive free books from the Imagination Library. Additionally, The Regional Business Council’s Young Professionals Network is sponsoring 100 children in the program.

Volunteer Opportunity: Be a Reading Buddy

Reading Buddies visit a local United Way supported agency once a month to coincide with the delivery of the children’s Imagination Library books. Volunteers and children spend an hour reading, discussing and doing activities associated with the featured book of the month. Learn more about Reading Buddy volunteer opportunities.

Opening doors in Lincoln County: An Imagination Library Case Study

United Way of Greater St. Louis piloted Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library with the Lincoln County R-III school district where 11 percent of families with children under age 5 live below the poverty level in 2009.

Literacy leads to doing better at school which leads to lower dropout rates, higher education, and, if you keep the ball rolling, less poverty.

In a 3-year pilot project with Lincoln County R-III, more than 90 percent of the 1,150 eligible children enrolled in the program.

A 2013 poll found that all families participating now read at least once per week to their children, including the families that previously did not read to their children at all.

The same poll shows that more than 70 percent of the children enrolled have an increased enthusiasm for books, use more words than before they were enrolled and, in many cases, nearly doubled the amount of time spent with books.

“We’ve noticed a difference with our preschoolers,” said Kelly Groeber, principal of Early Childhood Programs at Lincoln County R-III. “The children are excited [about] the books in class. They want to read together.”

Study upon study show us that “regardless of sex, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background—students who read the most … stay in school the longest,” and this starts with being read aloud to at home. 1

Another study shares there is a 32-million word gap between families of rich and poor children: “affluent children hear 45 million words by age four, working class hear 26 million, and [children living in poverty] hears just 13 million.”

In other words, reading aloud to children prior to them entering Kindergarten helps close the learning gap between at-risk children and others.

“We go to the homes of the families with high needs,” said Groeber. “They’re very proud of the books in their homes they receive through Imagination Library.”

Groeber continued, “Imagination Library is essential to our district. Many of our families would not have access to books if not for Imagination Library and we wouldn’t have had access to it without United Way and the other partners. We’re grateful for that.”

Thanks to United Way, Imagination Library has a strong foothold in the Lincoln-R III school district and many children now have a learning opportunity they may not have had otherwise.

1 The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease