My Catawba County

Free Books for Kids? Read On!

Free Books for Kids? Read On!

What if your child could receive a free book every month through the age of five? And what if those books could help spark family bonding, early literacy and a lifetime love of reading? This sounds exactly like what Imagination Library is doing for kids and families all over Catawba County. We talked with Kim Holden, executive director of the Catawba County Partnership for Children, to learn more.

What is Imagination Library? 
Imagination Library is an early literacy program started by Dolly Parton that mails every enrolled child 1 free book each month until the child turns 5 years of age. It is an excellent way to build home libraries, to encourage families to read together, and to get young children excited about books and reading. The first book every child gets when they enroll is the classic “The Little Engine that Could,” and the last book at age 5 is “Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” All of the books are carefully selected for children at the different developmental stages they go through in their first 5 years of life.   

Who can participate in the program, and how can they get enrolled?
Imagination Library is available all children in Catawba County who are under the age of 5. Parents and caregivers can go and click on “Free Books for Kids!” to enroll. Once registered, children will start receiving a free book in the mail every month until their 5th birthday. 

Why did the Catawba County Partnership for Children become an Imagination Library partner?
The Catawba County Partnership for Children’s mission is to ensure that every child in our community enters kindergarten prepared for lifelong success. One of the most important parts of building critical early literacy skills is by reading books together, starting at birth. Yet when we surveyed families, a significant number reported that they did not have access to children’s books in their homes. When we investigated solutions to this challenge, we came upon Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. Because of the generosity of the Dolly Parton and the Dollywood Foundation, participating with Imagination Library is an incredibly cost effective way to put books in the hands of children. While the program remains free for all families, our agency’s cost is only about $2 per book, which includes the book and the postage! 

When was the program founded locally, and how has participation evolved over time?
Catawba County children first became eligible for Imagination Library in April of 2011. Since that time, we have grown to mail books to over 5,400 children every month, which is about 65% of our age eligible population. The Catawba County Partnership for Children has been able to provide free Imagination Library books for local children thanks to the support of Smart Start, Hickory Rotary Club, Catawba County United Way, the Unifour Foundation, and many other supporters and donors. Our registrations have continued to grow, and we’re excited about providing more and more children in our community with free books. 

What is one of your favorite stories or memories of how the program has benefited a child/family?
There is nothing more exciting for children than getting something special in the mail, addressed just to them! Our favorite stories from parents describe the excitement that their children feel when they rush out to the mailbox to see if Dolly mailed them their book. And then, when that book arrives, parents tell us that their children demand that they sit down to read it together right then! We are so proud of the impact that the Imagination Library program is making on children and families. It helps create wonderful experiences for little ones and their caregivers, while building the early literacy skills we know will help build brighter futures down the road. Imagination Library is truly the gift that keeps on giving!