Over 8,000 Books Sent to Commerce Township Kids Through Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program
(Mary Dupuis, Feb. 20, 2023)
Commerce Township, MI – Commerce Township Community Library recently celebrated its first year of participation in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, with over 6,000 books being sent to kids in the community.
The program was founded in Parton’s home county in East Tennessee in 1995 with the mission of gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five.
On the Imagination Library site Parton stated her father’s inability to read and write inspired her to create the program, wanting to give children the chance to see their dreams take form through literature.
Since its creation the program has only grown and is now available to community partners in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Republic of Ireland.
Ashley Rossetto, Commerce Township Community Library’s human services and outreach librarian, said her idea to bring the program to her community was years in the making.
Rossetto said she had been reading a book about Parton during the pandemic and when she heard libraries were signing up to participate in the program she knew it was something she wanted to become involved in.
When the library staff returned following the pandemic Rossetto spoke with her director and Friends of the Commerce Library, a local nonprofit group, who agreed to partner with the library to help fund the program. Once approved by the library board and worked into budgets for the new year, the program was launched last January.
The program is sponsored by the library budget and Friends of the Commerce Library as the cost is about $25 per child per year to pay for the postage for all of the books. This way, families are able to participate free of charge.
“The response immediately was huge,” Rossetto said. “The Imagination Library gives you a projector of how many kids, based on your community’s size, they think you’ll get the first year, the second year and we blew past the first year projection in that first month. So I’m sure it freaked out my director, budget wise, but I was so excited to have so many people responding to it.”
Within the past year the library has been able to send out over 8,000 books to nearly 700 children throughout Commerce.
The program has a Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee that’s dedicated to choosing age appropriate, quality titles for the children enrolled.
Rossetto said books going to the youngest group of kids are usually board books – the kind of books they can chew on and not destroy easily. Usually they’re filled with big, bright images and rhyming. The books going to like the oldest kids might branch more heavily into school topics and have poems, rhymes or science, helping to prepare the children to start school.
Having grown up in Commerce, Rossetto said she loves that she’s been a part of bringing the program to the children of the community.
“I love that we are just putting these books in kids’ hands and they get to keep them at home and just have them forever,” Rossetto said. “There’s so many studies that show kids who grow up with more books in their home do better later in life academically. Even taking into account socioeconomic statuses, as long as they have those books in their home they have those tools for literacy when they’re little, and that helps them later in life to do better.”
She said something special the program does is address the book with the child’s name on it, so they have their very own package delivered to their door.
Rossetto said in the future she hopes to expand the program with partnerships throughout the community, such as in birthing centers in hospitals.
For now, she said she’s excited to see its continued growth as it progresses into its second year. Learn more:
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program