Free books for kids: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program

For as long as I can remember, I knew books were magical. My mom would always show us a new book we had received for Christmas or a birthday, open it up, and inhale deeply. We would all take turns reverently smelling the book, leaning in to relax into the scent of ink and fresh paper. Used books that were new to us had scents I preferred even more – oak and vanilla (here’s a really cool infographic about the chemical compounds we smell when we smell books). Smelling a book is comforting, exciting, and everything in between.

That’s all before you even start reading the book! Books are amazing and magical from the moment you receive them until the moment you read them for the twentieth time (or the moment they become an impromptu laptop stand after being repeatedly ignored on your shelf for five years – guilty!). And that’s why I was thrilled to hear about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program.

We can attest that the Imagination Library books not only smell good but also taste good.

Every month, around the twentieth, I go to get the mail and find a new board book for my daughter, sent from the Imagination Library Program. This program mails children ages 0-5 years an age-appropriate book every month, in certain geographic locations, at no cost to the family. We’ve received old classics, such as “The Little Engine that Could”; multilingual books, such as “I love my mommy because… /Quiero a mi mamá porque…”; and books in English I’d never read before, such as Annie Bach’s “Good Morning, Farm Friends.”  All for free.

“Dolly wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income,” the program website reads. So the Imagination Library, a monthly book club for kids with no cost to parents, started in 1995 and went national five years later. It now operates in five countries, including the United States and Canada. In 2020, they gave out their 150 millionth book.

If you, like me, feel the magic of smelling a new book and want to share that with your child, I encourage you to look into the program. You can check availability in your area here, and you can see the different books children have received by scrolling through their instagram @imaginationlibrary. If you want to make sure kids can continue to feel the magic, donate here; $25 provides books for a child for a year.

As a receipient family, we really enjoy this program. I hope you and your loved ones will too!

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