Dolly Parton’s UK Imagination Library Conference reveals new research into how the scheme is preparing children for primary school

  • Research reveals ongoing benefits from inspiring a love of reading in preschool children
  • Nottingham first UK city to host the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Conference
  • Dolly Parton Imagination Library has distributed 80 million books to pre-school children worldwide

The Imagination Library UK Conference held in Nottingham on Thursday, 9th June, has revealed new research into the benefits of the scheme in helping improve the literacy skills of pre-school children.


The Imagination Library aims to inspire a love of reading from the earliest possible age through providing a free age appropriate book, delivered to the child’s home each month, from the time they are born until they reach the age of five.


The “Exploring Evidence, Inspiring Imagination” conference shared insights from a number of international speakers into the benefits of the UK Imagination Library, and also the introduction of picture books from the earliest possible age.


Dolly Parton launched the UK Imagination Library in December 2007. Over 100 communities and businesses across the UK are now part of the scheme and nearly 24,000 children and their families are benefiting from receiving monthly books.


The UK conference coincided with a very special milestone for the Imagination Library, the delivery of the 80 millionth book worldwide since it was first established by Dolly Parton in her home county of Sever, Tennessee in 1996.


Speaking at the conference Dr Frank Ridzi, Director of Research and Community Initiatives at the Central New York Community Foundation and founding Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Applied Research (CURAR) in New York discussed the findings of his study into the impact of the Imagination Library in preparing participants for primary school.


The research shared by Dr Ridzi revealed that 59 per cent of parents of under-fives who are enrolled in the Imagination Library are reading to their children at least once a day, this compares to just 29 per cent of parents of children who are not part of the scheme. This interaction with books from an early age is helping children develop stronger early reading skills making them better prepared for entry into primary school.


This supports an earlier Tennessee study, which found that the development of stronger reading skills continues into later years; in this study 37 per cent of seven to eight year olds who are DPIL alumni are in the highest tier for reading comprehension compared with 27 percent of non-participants.


Dolly Parton said: “People across the UK are really working together to make sure even more kids have the opportunity to develop a love of books from the earliest possible age. This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in our communities. I want kids to love books, to have an emotional connection – even a reverence for books. I am most proud of the fact that every child in the Imagination Library does not have to grow up without books in their home.”

Nottingham is the first city in the UK to hold the Imagination Library Conference, an event which usually takes place in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee. Under-fives in Nottingham are some of the 24,000 children across the UK who are benefiting from the scheme. Nearly 42,000 books have been given to Nottingham children since it was established there in 2009.

Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years, said: “It is a real honour to have delegates from all over the world here in Nottingham for the International Imagination Library conference. We want to show them the amazing work we do for our children and to show them how we encourage and highlight the importance of families reading together.

“It has been proven that children are better prepared for school and the benefits are far-reaching. Making time to read with your children is so important because shared reading leads to a love of books. And we know that reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on life outcomes – and this is as much about confidence and well-being as it is about educational achievements.”

The conference was complemented by a number of fun events designed to raise the profile of the Imagination Library in Nottingham and encourage donations for the scheme to be expanded to more city children.

For more information on the Imagination Library visit