Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mailing free books in SMSD


The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation is partnering with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to send a free book each month to participating families in the Shawnee Mission School District. Image courtesy Shawnee Mission Education Foundation

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will soon start mailing books to the homes of the Shawnee Mission area’s youngest readers.

Driving the news: The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation announced at its annual breakfast on Thursday morning that it has become the first affiliate of the country music legend’s book-giving organization in Johnson County.

  • Rachel Shuck, a SMEF development manager, said there are currently 1,500 people who live in the district and are signed up to be notified when Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library becomes available to them.
  • Kimberly Hinkle, SMEF executive director, said in a press release that the Imagination Library “has been shown to improve child language and literacy skills, enhance home literacy environments and increase the frequency of parents reading to children.”

Key quote: “By serving as an affiliate of the Imagination Library, the Shawnee Mission Education foundation is committed to helping foster a love of reading in children before they are even students in the Shawnee Mission School District,” Hinkle said in the release.

How it works: By filling out a registration form, families living within the boundaries of the Shawnee Mission School District can become eligible to receive a book each month in the mail from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

  • After it is confirmed that they live within the district, books will start being sent to a family’s home eight to 10 weeks later, according to a SMEF pamphlet.
  • If a child’s address changes but they still live within the district, families can notify SMEF and the books can follow them to their new address.
  • If a family moves out of the district and into an area not covered by the Imagination Library, they are no longer eligible for the program.
  • Additional information and frequently asked questions can be found online here.
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Books on display Thursday morning at the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation’s annual breakfast, where it was announced Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library would now be mailing free books to participating families within the district’s boundaries. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

More about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Founded in the 1990s, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has sent millions of books throughout the US to young readers over the past quarter century, according to its website.

  • The program also operates in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland, according to its website.
  • The imagination library mails a free book to participating children each month until they are 5-years-old.
  • This means children who reside in Shawnee Mission whose families start ordering books when they are infants could have a 60-book library by the time they head to kindergarten.

How to help out: SMEF partnered with the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund to cover administrative costs for the program, according to its website.

  • Still, community members can donate various amounts monthly to help sustain the program in Shawnee Mission.
  • A $10 monthly donation can send 10 children’s books, according to the Imagination Library.
  • $25 a month would cover the cost of sending books to 300 Shawnee Mission area kids, and a $50 monthly donation, would cover the cost for up to 600 kids.
  • Donations can be made online here.

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