Imagination Library


What is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library?
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is an international nonprofit that promotes early childhood literacy by providing age-appropriate books each month to children from newborn to age 5 — at no cost to the family and regardless of income. Dolly Parton created this program to foster a love of reading and learning among preschool children and their families. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wants children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create.


How does the Imagination Library benefit children?
Inspiring the love of reading and learning early in a child’s life helps to develop strong literacy skills. Statistics and independent reports have shown Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library drastically improves early childhood literacy and enhances kindergarten readiness for children enrolled in the program.  Children read more when books are in the home!

But isn’t my child is too young to read?
It’s never too soon to start reading to your child!  Reading aloud to young children is a key literacy-boosting activity.  A study done by Le Moyne College faculty found that the longer a child is enrolled in the program the more frequently parents will read to their children, and increases the liklihood that an adult will discuss the story with the child.

A follow-up study released in August 2015 compared the “kindergarten readiness” of children who participated in the Imagination Library for three or four years of the five-year program vs. children who did not.  The results showed a 28.9% increase in the number of children who were prepared for kindergarten based on this measure.

Does my child get to keep the books?
Yes! These books are your child’s to keep forever! The Imagination Library creates a love of book ownership as a way to encourage a love of reading as an everyday activity. For many of the children that this program will reach, these will be the first books that these children will own.

Your child’s name will appear right on the mailing label of each book.  Children are very excited to receive their own book in the mail, and this helps to encourage their enthusiasm about reading the books.


Is the Imagination Library really free?
This program is offered to families at no cost regardless of income. All we ask is that families use the books to read together!

This sounds too good to be true. How can you mail a child a quality book every month at no cost?
It is true that there is no cost to participating families, but the Cortland Free Library must raise local funds to support this program. Funding for this program is not included in the library’s budget. Therefore we depend on donations and grants. Because the Dollywood Foundation generously funds most of the total cost (a 5-to-1 match on book funds!), we can keep our local cost at only $30 per child per year.   Although any child can participate with no cost to parents, our hope is that those families that can make a donation will do so.  Our yearly cost of $30 per child will cover the cost of 12 books (one book each month) and the mailing and administrative costs.

Who can donate?
Anyone can make a tax-deductible donation – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, teachers, businesses, other local organizations, and anyone else who wants to help bring this program to Cortland.  Donors of $1500 or more will be recognized as a sponsor on the mailing labels of the monthly Imagination Library books.

How do I donate to this program?
To make a tax-deductible donation, make your check payable to the Cortland Free Library with “Imagination Library” in the memo line. Bring or mail it to Cortland Free Library, 32 Church Street, Cortland, New York 13045. Donation forms are available in the library.

How much does the Cortland Free Library need to raise in local funds?
Because the Dollywood Foundation generously covers most of the cost, we only need to raise local funds in the amount of $30 per child.  Our goal is to have 168 children participating after one year, and 840 participating after five years.


Who can participate?
Any child under the age of 5 whose parent/guardian resides in the 13045 zip code can participate.  A child’s participation ends on his/her 5th birthday. We estimate there are 1400 eligible children living in our targeted geographic area of zip code 13045.

What if I don’t live in the 13045 zip code?
Children whose parents/guardians do not live in the 13045 zip code cannot participate through our library.

Marathon offers the Imagination Library and children living there should contact the Peck Memorial Library.  Other areas in Cortland County may also soon offer this program so check with your local library or school.

Do I (the parent/guardian) or my child need to have a library card?
No, but we encourage you to get one. You and your child can explore the wonderful selection of books and the dynamic programs available in the children’s library. The library and all of its programs are FREE to the public.

My child will be five in two months.  Can I still sign her/him up?                                                       

Sorry, registrations received within 10 weeks of the child’s 5th birthday cannot be processed in time for the child to receive a book from the Imagination Library.  Instead why not consider regular trips to the Cortland Free Library where you and your child can select books from the Children’s department.  If your child doesn’t already have a library card, please stop at our circulation desk to get one.

My child will be born next month.  Can I sign her/him up now?                                                      

Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your child!  You can sign your child up once he/she is born.

What happens to my child’s books if we move?                                                                              

Please notify the Cortland Free Library of your address change so that we can update our records.  If you move within the 13045 zip code AND you notify the library of your new address, your child will continue to receive his books.

If you move outside of the 13045 zip code, you can no longer receive books from the Imagination Library through us.  Check with the library in your new area to see if they are participating in the Imagination Library program.


How do I ENROLL my child?
To enroll a child online, a parent or guardian can go to and click on “Register My Child” or stop by the Cortland Free Library for a registration brochure.

What if I have more than one child?
Each child can be signed up to receive his/her very own Imagination Library. The Imagination Library’s selection panel rotates some books in the Library each year, so that siblings do not receive full sets of identical titles.

How soon will my child get his/her first book?
The first book will arrive at your home about six to eight weeks after registering. Your child will then continue to receive a new, age-appropriate book at their home each month until his/her fifth birthday or you move out of the 13045 zip code.

Do we have to come to the Cortland Free Library to pick up our Imagination Library book?
No, Dolly Parton will mail the book to your child at the address you provide on the registration form.  Make sure the address you provide is correct.  Please be sure to notify the library if you move.


How are the books picked? Will they be appropriate for my child?
A committee of childhood education experts selects the books for the Imagination Library. All families receive The Little Engine that Could as their first book.  Other titles include well-loved classics such as Spot Goes to the FarmSnowy Day, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.

The committee also determines an age-appropriate timeline for book themes, including: visual and playful stimulation in year one; repetition and body awareness in year two; love, colors and letters in year three; diversity of others and poetry in year four; and finally, riddles, science and appreciation in year five.  Some bilingual books featuring Spanish and English text on the same page.

Sign Up for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Support Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Give a child the gift of reading!

Make a tax-deductible donation to
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL).

For every $30 we raise within the community, we can enroll a child for one year in the Imagination Library program — that's one book every month for one year mailed directly to the child's home! Dolly Parton generously covers the rest of the cost!

What is it?
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a nonprofit that promotes early childhood literacy by mailing age-appropriate books each month to children from newborn to age five — at no cost to the family and regardless of income. Read our FAQ for the complete story.

How is this possible? 
While it is true that there is no cost to participating families, the Cortland Free Library must raise local funds to support this program. Because funding for this program is not inlcuded in the library's budget, we depend on donations and grants. Thanks to generous funding by Dolly Parton, we can keep our local cost at only $30 per child per year.

How do I make a tax-deductible donation?
We can accept your generous contribution via check made payable to The Cortland Free Library and earmarked for the “Imagination Library”. This is the preferred means of donation because 100% of the funds will go to the Imagination Library. Donation forms are available in the Library or you can print the form below.

Library patrons with a library account can also donate by credit card or PayPal through the Library’s website, however a portion of the funds will automatically be taken for a mandatory fee.  To donate online, click on the “Donate to The Library” button on the right, then select “General Contribution” from the list of where your gift will go towards and then type “Imagination Library” in the box below that.

Check out our FAQ page.  Email , or call 607.753.1042 or stop in the Library at 32 Church Street.

Donation Form:

imagination libraryI would like to help the Cortland Free Library bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to our community.

Enclosed is my check for:

 _$1500 – Give 50 children one book every month for one year**

_ $300 – Give 10 children one book every month for one year

_ $150 – Give   5 children one book every month for one year

_ $  90 – Give   3 children one book every month for one year

_ $  30 – Give   1 child one book every month for one  year

 I prefer to give $____________.

**Donors of $1500 or more will be recognized as a sponsor on the books' mailing labels.**

Name _________________________________________________________

Address _______________________________________________________

Phone _____________  Email ______________________________________