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Gov. Pritzker announces statewide partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Children in Illinois can receive free books mailed to their home

METRO EAST, Ill. (June 14, 2023) — Governor JB Pritzker joined Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, along with state and local officials at Maplewood School in Cahokia Heights on Tuesday to announce Illinois’ partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The recently signed FY24 budget allocates $1.6 million to the program, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children by inspiring a love of reading. The initiative includes a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter a family’s income.

“Imagination Libraries are already working their magic at a few dozen locations around the state, and the teamwork of my administration and the Dollywood Foundation will make it possible to bring Dolly to every doorstep,” said Pritzker. “This initiative will connect low-income families to resources their children will need for lifelong success.”

The Dollywood Foundation, which supports the Imagination Library Program, is a nonprofit organization founded by Dolly Parton in 1988. The Imagination Library Program was launched in 1995, with books originally being distributed to children living in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton grew up. The program became such a success that in 2000 it was replicated nationally. By 2003, one million books had been mailed to children all over the country.

Numerous studies have found that the first five years of life are critical for young children, with around 90% of brain development occurring during that time. Through the Imagination Library Program, children have seen a 29% increase in kindergarten readiness.

During the event, Governor Pritzker also celebrated the budget’s investments in early childhood education and care, including $250 million in funding for the Smart Start Illinois Plan, which includes:

  • $75 million increase for the Early Childhood Block Grant to create 5,000 new preschool seats next year
  • $130 million increase in childcare funding to support the creation of new Childcare Workforce Compensation Contracts that will raise the wages of childcare workers and provide stability to the field
  • $40 million increase for Early Intervention to provide a rate increase to providers and increase access to therapeutic services for children ages 0-3 with (or at risk of) developmental delay or disability, supporting healthy child development
  • $5 million increase to expand the Home Visiting program to meet the demand for services


Office of the Illinois Governor
Office of the Illinois Governor
One of the duties of the Office of the ​Governor is to announce the lowering of flags to half-staff for every Illinois member of the armed forces, police force, fire service, and other groups covered by the Act killed in the line of duty. The Lansing Journal receives news releases regarding these occasions and republishes them for our community. We also publish other state news from the Governor's Office that impacts or interests our community.