Imagination Library

dolly-parton-imaginationThis project is the result of a collaborative effort by Illawarra’s Rotary Clubs in partnership with United Way Australia, a not-for-profit organisation who are licensed to offer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Australia.

Did you know Dolly’s Dad, the most intelligent man she’d ever known, with his inability to read, was the inspiration for her starting this great programme.

Each month, registered children (0 – 5 years of age) receive a quality, age-appropriate book which is posted to them. There is no cost to the family. Dolly’s vision was that if children have books from an early age, they will come to love books and stories, enjoy some “close time” with their parents and develop early literacy skills. They will start school wanting to learn to read, and having the skills needed to succeed. Not all families can provide books for their children – this program gives children their own books.

We currently have 187 children registered in the programme in the Cringila/Warrawong area and 33 enrolled in Bellambi area.


History of Project in the Illawarrapaint-gong

Illawarra’s Rotary clubs, working with PAINT the GONG RE(a)D, began offering Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) to preschool children in Warrawong  and Cringila in February 2014. Government statistics showed that 25% of the children in those communities were starting school lacking the basics needed to read and learn.  DPIL is a proven means of addressing this situation.

Donations from Illawarra’s 11 Rotary clubs, the UOW Rotaract club, United Way and a number of individuals enabled 150 children to receive the IL for 3 years. A very generous grant from the IMB Foundation meant an additional 100 children could participate each year for 3 years.

booksAt the end of October 2015, 245 children were registered and another 106 children had graduated (left the program because they had turned 5). The project had distributed 4000 books to children – for some of them, these were the first books they had owned.

Parents and teachers report the children’s excitement when each book arrives, repeated requests to have the stories read, language development, improved concentration and the whole family’s enjoyment of the books. We believe the project is achieving the desired outcomes.

Mid 2015, the ILI committee sought Rotary clubs’ support for expanding the program to Bellambi. This was received and together with $3500 from a successful District Grant application, will enable some Bellambi children to receive the Imagination Library. As this is a long term project, funds have again been budgeted over 3 years and will enable 50 children to be registered.