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 https://www.open-books.org/dollyparton/.  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

Maureen Kelleher

Maureen Kelleher is a senior writer and editor at Education Post, but before that 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. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to magazine covering Chicago’s public schools. There, her reporting won awards from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the International Reading Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of an elementary student at Chicago’s Namaste Charter School. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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