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Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is Named NASBE’s 2021 Friend of Education

Alexandria, VA – Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is being honored as the 2021 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). This national award is given annually to an individual or organization whose contributions to preK-12 education are significant and enduring.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, Dolly’s nonprofit organization founded in 1988 and based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Since launching in 1995, the Imagination Library has become the preeminent, global early childhood book-gifting program.  Inspired by her father’s inability to read or write, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading and learning by gifting books, free of charge to families, through funding shared by Dolly and local community partnerships.

In 2018, the Imagination Library achieved an incredible milestone of 100 million books gifted since inception, and two short years later it surpassed 150 million books. As of August 2021, the Imagination Library gifts over 1.8 million specially selected, high quality, age-appropriate books each month via the mail to registered children from birth to age five in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland.

Parents of enrolled children are overwhelmingly positive about the program, reporting that their children eagerly anticipate the arrival of their new books “from Dolly”. Evaluations of the program have also documented children’s increased readiness for kindergarten and better phonological awareness, as well as increased frequency of being read to by parents and caregivers.

“Because of the Imagination Library’s commitment to early literacy and to children and their families, parents read aloud more to their children and are more comfortable reading,” said Byron Ernest, chair of the NASBE Board of Directors. “We are so proud to award NASBE’s Friend of Education award to this exemplary organization. They epitomize everything NASBE stands for.”

“We are honored to receive this recognition from NASBE for the work of the Imagination Library,” said Jeff Conyers, president of the Dollywood Foundation. “We believe, as NASBE does, that every child, regardless of income, should have access to books from the very beginning, and we are committed to making Dolly’s vision a reality for children across America and around the world.”

“The Imagination Library exemplifies what NASBE values: equity and excellence in the education of all children,” said Robert Hull, NASBE president and CEO. “The Library has inspired the love of reading in our youngest children, making it possible for children in all circumstances to thrive in school and support lifelong learning.”

NASBE’s full slate of 2021 awards will be presented at its virtual annual conference October 6-8, 2021.


NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has gifted well over 160 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.8 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit  


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