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Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Free books for Elgin area kids

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Program was started in 1995 by Ms. Parton because she wanted every child birth to five years of age to have his or her own library of books. Dolly understood the importance of exposing children to reading at an early age, so she began sending books every month, free of charge, to kids in her county. Thanks to our sponsors and partners in literacy, the United Way of Elgin brought Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to the families of the Elgin area in February 2009.

The program is simple:

  • All children from birth to just under five years of age who live in Elgin, South Elgin, Hampshire, Pingree Grove, or Burlington are eligible to participate in the book program--at no cost to them thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.

  • Books will be sent out to participating children once a month until they reach five years of age. Each book is age appropriate.

Over 10,500 children have received books through the program, with 280,000+ books mailed!

Thank you to our sponsors and partners

  • Our Valedictorian partners in literacy, who contribute $5,000 or more to the program, are: The Hoffer Foundation, Andrew & Alice Fischer Charitable Trust, and the EFS Foundation.
  • Our Bookworm partners include: Youth United Way, W.R. Meadows, W.S. Hampshire Inc., and the Elgin Noon Rotary Club.

These fantastic partners help keep the program free for all families--THANK YOU! We're also very grateful to the hundreds of individual donors who have contributed to the program. We appreciate your belief in the importanace of reading for a child's early language and literacy development.

Thank you also to other community partners: Gail Borden Public Library, Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library, Elgin Child and Family Resource Center, School District U-46 Parents as Teachers, Greater Elgin Family Care Center, Head Start, Well Child Center, WIC Program, VNA of Fox Valley, Kane County Health Department, Elgin Township, the City of Elgin, and the Village of South Elgin who all help enroll children in this program.

How can I help?

In addition to our sponsors, the program is funded in part by individual donations. If you'd like to sponsor a child for a year, donate $30 today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the responsibilities of the parent/guardian?

In addition to residing in the area mentioned above, the responsibilities include submitting an official registration form and notifying United Way anytime there is a change of address. Change of address notification is important because the books are mailed to the address listed on the registration form and cannot be forwarded to the new address.

When will the child receive his/her book?

Books will begin arriving at the child's home about eight to ten weeks after the registration form has been received by United Way of Elgin. The books will continue to be sent until the child turns five or moves out of the eligible geographical area. If a child does not receive the first book or misses a book one month, parents should first talk to their mail carrier about the issue and then call the United Way of Elgin if more help is needed.

Are books available Spanish?

The Dollywood Foundation selects the book titles each year, and bilingual books are included for everyone in the program based on the availability from their publisher. Most children will receive at least one bilingual book each year they are enrolled. However, even if a parent cannot read English, telling the story by looking at the pictures will increase the child’s vocabulary.

Sounds great, how do I sign up?

Registration forms are available at the United Way of Elgin office and the Gail Borden Public Library.

For further information call the United Way of Elgin at 847-741-2259 or contact us online.

What are some other reading resources?

Reading to your children often encourages a love of reading and helps them enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Check out the below resources for more tips on how to engage your children with their free books!

Born Learning, the United Way of America's early learning resource site.

Thinkfinity, the Verizon Foundation's educational resources.

NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children's tips.

PBS, the PBS reading and writing tips site