Open Books and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Bring Books to Englewood and Beyond

Last Saturday, Open Books and Imagination Library partnered with Teamwork Englewood for a celebratory kick-off of their efforts to inspire a love of reading in young Chicagoans.

Already Open Books has enrolled over 2,000 children in the Austin, Garfield Park, Little Village, North Lawndale and Pilsen communities in the Imagination Library program. Recently, executive director Eric Johnson’s plans to reach every young child in Chicago were featured in Crain’s Chicago Business’ Public Schools Ideas Forum.

Event photos courtesy Open Books

Singer Dolly Parton created Imagination Library in honor of her father. In a letter on the program’s website, she says, “He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all his dreams.” Through local partnerships like the new one with Open Books, Imagination Library now sends a brand-new book a month to thousands of children from birth through age 5 all over the world.

The Imagination Library enrollment process is simple. Parents or guardians provide the child’s name, date of birth and address; free, new, age-appropriate, high-quality books start arriving by mail – addressed to the child – each month until the child turns five. Parents can sign up children as early as a newborn’s due date, and each child can receive up to 60 books in total, all before they enter kindergarten.

Registration for Chicago residents who live in the Austin, Garfield Park, Little Village or North Lawndale areas is available at  Families elsewhere can use the link to join the wait list. Open Books plans to expand access to Imagination Library citywide.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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