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When Chattanooga resident Katie Archambault first heard about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a partner of United Way of Greater Chattanooga, she could barely contain her excitement. 

“One free book each month from birth until they start school?! Yes, please,” said Katie. 

At the time Katie signed up her family for the program, she was a stay at home mom with three young children. She knew reading was important but her family didn’t have a lot of extra income.  The free book program was an easy and fun way to build a home library.

How the Imagination Library Works

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is available to all children under five years old in the Greater Chattanooga area. Parents sign up online and then every month one book is mailed to their child. 

The books come from a carefully cultivated list and are selected based on the age and developmental stage of the child. The list itself is a diverse set of books that includes the classics, best-sellers as well as contemporary stories to help kids stay interested in reading. Titles include, “The Gruffalo,” “Brother Eagle, Sister Sky,” “Llama Llama Loves to Read,” “The Snowy Day,” “Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave” and “I Love You, Spot.” Additionally, many of the books are written bilingually, in English and Spanish to support kids who want to learn a different language than they speak at home.

Tennessee Children Struggle with Reading

Having early access to books can help children build important academic skills. 

The National Commission on Reading has found that an early introduction to books can be one of the single most significant factors that influence a child’s educational success. Even more important, studies demonstrate that reading proficiently by third grade leads to higher rates of graduating on time. In turn, earning a high school diploma helps kids avoid incarceration, find a job that pays a sustainable wage and live a healthier life.

Unfortunately today, less than half of third-graders in Tennessee read proficiently. The state has undertaken efforts to bolster childhood literacy and the Imagination Library can be a part of that movement. 

Katie is an advocate for growing the program so all kids in the Chattanooga area can benefit from having books at home. 

“I am a professional librarian and know just how important it is to build a home library, to read with your children from the time they are born and keep on reading as long as they will allow it,” said Katie. “We are blessed to have the Imagination Library and I hope that someday we will have 100% participation here in Chattanooga.”

How to Support Free Books for Kids

United Way of Greater Chattanooga has made the Imagination Library program part of our community for 15 years. The program runs on the generosity of community members like you and partners like the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation. Together we have given away over 2.5 million books!

For families like Katie’s receiving 12 books a year was a fantastic experience. 

“The Imagination Library made opening the mailbox feel like Christmas morning once a month, for me and my kids,” Katie said.

You can help give more kids this magic feeling and help us improve childhood literacy in Tennessee by giving $12 today. 

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