100 Million Books Mailed Worldwide, 32 Million in Tennessee: The Story of TN’s Imagination Library

March 4, 2018

Literacy looks like books.
Books look like the Imagination Library.
TN's Imagination Library looks like...

On February 27, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library celebrated 100 million books mailed to preschoolers across the world. During this special event, Dolly Parton dedicated the 100 millionth Imagination Library book to the Library of Congress and read The Coat of Many Colors to children in the audience. Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam, GBBF President Theresa Carl and GBBF VP Dean Hoskins were thrilled to be invited guests representing Tennessee. (Click here for photos of the TN delegation.)

Out of 100 million books mailed across the world,
Tennessee’s Imagination Library has mailed 32 million since 2004.


Through a unique, three-way partnership between Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF), Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and a local affiliate program in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Tennessee’s Imagination Library remains the only statewide program, giving all age-eligible children in Tennessee the opportunity to receive high-quality, age-appropriate books each month in the mail at no cost to families.

In Tennessee,

  • 32 million books have been mailed to birth to age five children since 2004.
  • 282,213 books are mailed each month.
  • 70% of Tennessee’s age eligible population is enrolled.
  • $585, 921 is the monthly program cost, split between GBBF and the Imagination Library affiliate in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, through various local donations and grants.​

Get Involved Locally: Read. Volunteer. Give.


How TN's Imagination Library Works:
Statewide Public-Private Partnership



History of GBBF and TN's Imagination Library

1996: Dolly Parton begins mailing one book each month to enrolled children in Sevier County through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/Dollywood Foundation.

2004: Governor Bredesen and the TN General Assembly establish the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (Senate Bill No. 2275).10398869_73192109263_8270123_n.jpg

  • Charged with promoting and fostering the development of a comprehensive statewide program for encouraging children to read. 
  • Managing and promoting the statewide rollout of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in every Tennessee county, 
  • Providing support and resources to county efforts, and
  • Raising funds statewide to assist distressed counties with their share of the costs. 
  • GBBF received an appropriation from the State of Tennessee to fund related operating expenses and a 50% match grant covering the cost of providing books to any county organization that offered the program to every child in the county under five.

03/2006: All 95 Tennessee counties have successfully established Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program

  • With the support of a local non-profit organization and are enrolling children to receive books monthly

09/2011: GBBF partnership with TN Department of Child Services

  • Established with support of the Verizon Foundation, enrolling every age eligible child in state custody into the Imagination Library.

2013: Significant research study results from Shelby County/Urban Child Institute and Knox County/Knox County Public Schools reflecting outperformance by Imagination Library participants on kindergarten assessments and reading readiness testing.

  • Participation in TN Department of Health’s Welcome Baby Initiative begins – letter from Governor/First Lady mailed to family of every newborn encouraging participation in the Imagination Library program and including a specially designed self-mailing enrollment form.

10/2014: 10th Anniversary Celebration of delivery of 20 Million books statewide032_4367DM.jpg

  • Publication of meta-analysis conducted on 10 years of research on the impacts of the Imagination Library program in Tennessee.

2016: Begin enrollment partnership with TN Department of Human Services (130 offices statewide)

  • Offers Imagination Library enrollment to every qualifying family with age appropriate children through Families First and Child – Certificate programs.

2017: Celebrate the delivery of 30 Million books statewide since program began

  • Continue to set new record program enrollment each month. 
  • Conduct first, three week long statewide outdoor media and local TV PSA campaign during September in celebration of 30 Million books delivered and annual Imagination Library week each September.