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Educators have emphasized the fact that reading with preschool children is the single most important activity to help prepare them for school. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library book program was created to guarantee access to books and to inspire parents to read to their children as much as possible.
United Way of Southwest Minnesota is committed to building literacy skills and school readiness in young children. We want to ensure children have positive developmental opportunities so that they can start school ready to succeed. We want to grow success in learning and in life.
Studies show that when kids are given regular 'lap-time' not 'laptop' time, but time spent reading books before kindergarten, their vocabulary can reach 10,000 words before age 5. For a child who hasn't had this experience, their vocabulary is about 3,000 words.
United Way of Southwest Minnesota, in partnership with The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, provides one book each month to children, from birth to age 5, who live in our service area* and are registered by their parent or guardian. The sturdy, colorful, age appropriate books are delivered directly to the child. Each book is selected for the developmental benefits it brings - and for the fun. There is no cost to registered families. *To participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in this area of southwest Minnesota, families must live in one of the following school districts: Canby, Dawson/Boyd, Echo, Fulda, Hendricks, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Lakeview, Lynd, Marshall, Milroy, Minneota, Murray County Central, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Tracy Area, Westbrook-Walnut Grove or Yellow Medicine East.
The cost for this program is covered by donations made to United Way of Southwest Minnesota by: individual, employee and business donors; local service organizations; Operation Round-up Funds; and grant funding.
Program sponsorship costs United Way of Southwest Minnesota approximately $30 per child, per year. If you would like to donate towards this program, please send a donation to us at: United Way of Southwest Minnesota, PO Box 41, Marshall, MN 56258; Click the DONATE tab on our home page; or call us at 507-929-2273.
Parents or guardians can enroll their child (or children) who are under age five by filling out the online registration to submitting a paper registration form. CLICK HERE to download the registration form in English. CLICK HERE to download the registration form in Spanish. If you would prefer to receive a paper registration form by mail, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address.
Please allow 8-12 weeks for delivery of your child's first book. Not all books are shipped on the same day within a given month. Households enrolling children of different ages should expect that each child's book will arrive on a different day within the same month.
NOTE: The books cannot be forwarded by the postal service. If you move, please contact us as soon as possible (prior to moving is okay, as long as you let us know when you will be moving) with your new address so that your child(ren) can continue to receive books.
*To participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library through the United Way of Southwest Minnesota sponsorship, the child must live in one of the following school districts (note that private and charter schools are also included): Canby, Dawson/Boyd, Echo, Fulda, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton, Lakeview, Lynd, Marshall, Milroy, Minneota, Murray County Central, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Tracy Area, Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Yellow Medicine East. If you do not live in our service area, click here to see if there is a sponsor in your area (once on the page, click "Affiliate Locator").
PARENT TESTIMONIALS REGARDING IMAGINATION LIBRARY:
• I have been involved with this program through all 3 of my children (5, 3, 1) and they look forward to their book coming every month. It gets them very excited to learn and read! They even take turns reading to each other. They live that they get this in the mail!! Thank you!!
• I have received Imagination Library books since my oldest daughter, and she turns 15 this year! I have 3 other little ones that have received books and just love when they come in the mail! Thank you!!
• I’ve admired this program in college during my internship with United Way and again when my son was born, it’s an invaluable tool for young minds!
• My kids have loved receiving their new books each month! It’s a great chance for us to sit down and read as a family!
• My oldest (2.5 years) gets SO excited when he receives a new book in the mail! He looks forward to it every month! We love this program & are so thankful for it!!
• My toddlers and I look forward to books in the mail. Each time we open the mailbox I hear, "did we get a new book?!" This program has made our home library grow tremendously! A couple of our current favorites are: Good Morning Farm Friends, Little Excavator, and Milo's Hat Trick! When we get duplicates we pack them up and leave at Grandma's for all the cousins to enjoy (they are not in our service area and wish they had access to the program!). Thank you UWSM & IL!!!
• Our kid loves it! Most of them have become their favorite books! Great addition to have some bilingual books!
• Some of our family's favorite books have come from the Imagination Library. Having books in the home is so important. My youngest took a little while to become more interested in reading but having access to the bookshelf really helps. He finds his favorites and we read them again and again.
• The kids get very excited when they see a book come in the mail with their name on it! The titles sent are fun, appropriate and well written.
• This is an AMAZING program that I’m so thankful for as a parent and teacher!! I know many of the kooks my students have at home are because of this program!! Thank you so much!!
• This is an incredibly valuable program to every family. It gives all children access to learning and gives parents and easy opportunity to sit down with their children and READ! Our family has greatly benefited from this program.
• We are so thankful for these books!! Thank you!!
1. We receive the same books for child two as we did for child one! How can this be avoided?
Unfortunately, if a family has more than one child registered for the program, they will receive some duplicate books throughout the years. Book choices are determined by the esteemed Dolly Parton Blue Ribbon Selection Committee. This committee is a specially selected panel of early childhood literacy experts and is responsible for reviewing hundreds of potential titles for including in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library book program puts books into the hands and hearts of children around the world. Imagination Library books are specially selected age-appropriate, high-quality titles. These books are delivered to registered children each month from birth to age five. Each one is personalized with the child’s name and mailed directly to the child’s home. This effort creates a gifting experience making books exciting and shows the child someone is thinking of them.
Three to four new books are introduced into the rotation each year in each age group, so if you have multiple children who go through the program, there will be some duplicate books throughout the five year period. If you have multiple copies of a book, consider keeping some in your car, at grandma’s house, at daycare, etc.
2. It varies when and how often we get a book. My daughter has received three books in the last six months, but my son has only received one book in the past six months. What’s up with that?
Books are mailed from the Dollywood Foundation in Tennessee throughout each month, so it will vary what time during the month your children’s books arrive. For example, one child may receive a book on the 7th and the other child receive theirs on the 25th. Additionally, books are mailed bulk rate, so they do not have priority in delivery as first class mail does.
If you do not receive a book each month for your child, we recommend going through the following checklist:
• Is your address on the mailing label correct and complete?
• If you’ve moved, have you updated your address in the book ordering system or contacted United Way of Southwest Minnesota to update it for you?
• If the child’s last name is different from the parents’, consider filling out a change of address form for that child and put it on file with the USPS (even if the address is correct). The child receiving books each month must be registered with the USPS as living at that address. A parent can contact their local post office at any time to be certain that the child’s name is associated with the correct mailing address.
• Check the book label for the delivery month “(Name of the month)’s personal gift for:” listed beside the child’s name.
• Are you having other lost mail?
• Do you have a receptacle installed for mail delivery?
• Consider speaking with your mail carrier and let them know you should be receiving books monthly. Ask them if there's any reason they're aware of that you're not receiving them regularly.
• Consider checking with your local post office to see if they know why book(s) are not being received and what can be done to allow delivery.
3. We are moving and have found it difficult to change the address. What’s the easiest way to update our address and when should we do it?
You can contact us at email@example.com and let us know your updated address, including child(ren)’s names and when you’re moving. We’ll make sure the change gets made in the system. If you’re moving out of our service area, we can check if there is a program sponsor where you’re moving to. If there is, we will request a transfer of your registration to the local program sponsor.
You have access to your child’s registration online if you provided an email address when you registered. You can log into the system and update the mailing address at any time you’d like.
4. Some of the books are odd. Some of the books I didn’t read to my child because they have inappropriate content and/or were unappealing and/or boring. Some of the books don’t seem age appropriate.
Book choices are determined by the esteemed Blue Ribbon Selection Committee. This committee is a specially selected panel of early childhood literacy experts and is responsible for reviewing hundreds of potential titles for including in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library book program. There is no local control over what books are included.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library puts books into the hands and hearts of children around the world. Imagination Library books are specially selected age-appropriate, high-quality titles. These books are delivered to registered children each month from birth to age five. Each one is personalized with the child’s name and mailed directly to the child’s home.
5. I wish my child could still get books after they turn 5. Will the program sponsor older readers?
Imagination Library is only for children ages birth-5 years old. However, there are LOTS of great libraries in our service area with many books for older readers! Scholastic is also another great resource, with many books priced at just $1. Additionally, there are many used books available at discounted prices at your local thrift stores, goodwill and/or Amazon.com.
6. I signed my child up, but haven’t gotten a book yet/have only gotten one book. Why?
It takes 5-12 weeks for the first book to arrive. If your child hasn’t received a book twelve weeks after enrollment, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. We can verify when the child's registration was received and entered into the system, as well as what month his/her first book should arrive.
The books do not come on the same day every month. They can come at any point during the month. Once the month has ended, if your child still hasn’t received their book, please contact our office. See answer to Question #2 for additional information.
7. Who sponsors Imagination Library and how can my friend(s) get registered?
Imagination Library is available only if a child lives in an area where there is an affiliate that sponsors the program. To see if it is available in your area, visit https://imaginationlibrary.com/check-availability/.
In southwest Minnesota, the program is sponsored by United Way of Southwest Minnesota. Currently, more than 2,200 children in our service area receive a book every month. In 2021-22, UWSWMN invested over $58,000 into the cost of books and mailing them.
8. We moved, why aren’t the books forwarded to our new address?
Books are mailed bulk rate and therefore cannot be forwarded. If you are moving, or have moved, please update your address online or by contacting email@example.com. See answer to Question #3 above.
9. We no longer read our Imagination Library books or we’ve received multiple copies of the same book. What can we do with them?
Donate them! Daycares, schools, and thrift stores often accept books. Our office does, too! We use donated books to fill our Little Red Bookshelf locations throughout our service area. We can even take care of covering up your child’s name and mailing address before using them.
If you are moving soon, or have already moved, and your child is registered for the Imagination Library book program through United Way of Southwest Minnesota, please fill out and submit the following form asap.