Open Books Presents:
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Chicago
FREE NEW Books to Children 0-5 in Chicago!
The Library That Dolly Built
View the feature-length documentary, covering the history, impact and future of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library!
More than two-thirds of Chicago is covered by book deserts – neighborhoods with no bookstores and
few if any books available for purchase anywhere else. Research shows that, in middle-income
neighborhoods, the average home contains 13 books per child; low-income neighborhoods contain a
single book for every 300 kids.
We intend to change that. Open Books’ Imagination Library program will provide every child in Chicago
with access to free, age-appropriate books delivered directly to their homes. The books arrive by mail –
often the first mail a child receives – every month from birth until the child turns 5. Each one is brand
new and carefully selected by a panel of experts on childhood literacy and early education.
Open Books is now delivering books to over 3,000 Chicago children!
Since launching in December 2018 in the North Lawndale neighborhood, we have expanded the
program to include Austin, Little Village and East Garfield Park. In each of those communities we collaborate closely with a network of partners – residents, neighborhood leadership, and the fabric of groups that provide social, educational and community support – to ensure that families who need books can get them.In the next several years we aim to put millions of books in the hands of thousands of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them.
Our operational partner is the Imagination Library, an organization founded by legendary singer-songwriter Dolly Parton. Inspired by her father, who grew up in a household without books and never learned to read, Ms. Parton started the Imagination Library in 1995 to provide books to children in her childhood home of Sevier County, Tenn. Since then, the program has delivered more than 120 million books to children all over the world. Through Open Books, the program is now available, for the first time, to children in Chicago at no cost to the families.
With our community partners in Chicago, and with Imagination Library, we’re sending that magic directly into the homes of the kids who need it most.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I register multiple children?
As long as each child is under the age of 5 and in the above zip codes, they are eligible for the program, regardless of the number of eligible children living in the same household. In order to register multiple children, simply complete and submit the online form once for each child or provide the representative at a designated in-person registration site with the appropriate information for each child. Please note that only a child’s parent or legal guardian may register them for the program.
How will my child receive their books?
Each month, children registered for the program will receive a new, free book in the mail at the home address with his or her name on the label. Books may arrive up until the last day of the month, and participating children living at the same address will likely not receive their books on the same day.
When will my child stop receiving books?
Children graduate from the program when they turn 5 years old and stop receiving books at that time. A child will also stop receiving books if they move to an address outside of the Chicago program coverage area. In the event that a child becomes ineligible for the program as a result of a move, it is possible to check whether the child’s new home address falls within the coverage area of another Dolly Parton Imagination Library affiliate. If this is the case, the child may be transferred from one program to another and continue receiving free books until the age of 5.