Special at Armoreite
OKLAHOMA CITY — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced Tuesday that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is investing $2.5 million in federal relief funds pandemic to expand Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
OSDE will provide a 1:1 match of all funds raised by local community partners, ensuring that up to 264,000 Oklahoma children from birth to age 5 receive free, high-quality, age-appropriate books. age, mailed to their home on a monthly basis.
“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in well-documented learning disruptions. The impacts on our youngest learners are particularly troubling and appear to be most severe among our most vulnerable student populations,” Hofmeister said. “These challenges underscore the need for strong early literacy interventions to help get our children back on track. We are thrilled to partner with Dolly Parton, one of the world’s most famous proponents of early literacy, to help our children learn essential literacy skills before they even set foot in kindergarten.
Artist, businessman and philanthropist Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library program in 1995 to distribute books in the impoverished Tennessee county where she grew up. The state
Tennessee quickly adopted the program statewide. To date, the Imagination Library has sent over 178 million free books to children on three continents. Oklahoma is the 12th state to commit to achieving statewide coverage.
“I am so excited to work with Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education to bring my imaginative library to Oklahoma. Together, let’s inspire a love of reading and learning in every child in Oklahoma,” Parton said.
The Imagination Library’s unique funding structure is centered on community partnerships. Around the world, nearly 2,000 local affiliate programs enroll families and increase program costs by $2.10 per book per month. With OSDE’s 1:1 match, each affiliate in Oklahoma will be responsible for only $1.05 per child per month. Thirteen affiliates currently operate in Oklahoma, serving more than 4,000 of the state’s eligible children under age 5, with six more ongoing affiliates. Children enrolled in an active affiliate are also eligible for OSDE matching funds.
The Oklahoma Imagination Library was authorized under 2020 legislation and authored by Senator John Haste and Representative Tammy Townley.
“Reading, especially from an early age, increases children’s reading comprehension and imagination before they even enter a formal school setting,” Townley said. “All Oklahoma kids deserve access to age-appropriate books, and I’m thrilled that the Imagination Library will soon be available in each of our counties.”
“In 2019, I heard Dolly Parton talk about her imaginative library,” Haste said. “The program has been proven to increase reading time and kindergarten readiness, and I knew that was something we needed in Oklahoma. When children have their own books, they are more likely to develop a love and appreciation for reading that will help them succeed in school and throughout life. I am so excited that the Oklahoma Imagination Library is now a reality.
OSDE’s investment in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Oklahoma will be funded through 2024 and is part of Ready Together Oklahoma: An Action Plan to Support Students During the Pandemic and Beyond.