SRF Program

  • Dolly Parton Imagination Library

    VEYLDF Alignment

    Item uses these practice principles: Partnerships with families, High expectations for every child.

    Item responds to these sub-outcomes: Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work, Children engage with a range of texts and get meaning from these texts.


    The Imagination Library (DPIL) brings the magic of a library into the home with a gift of a book every month before school begins supporting parents as their child's first and most important teacher. 

    Started by musician Dolly Parton in 1996, the program has been developed for community organisations to utilise and gift children with a new age-appropriate book every month direct to their homes (with their name on it!) to encourage reading habits in the home in the first five years prior to school begins. Every book comes with a book tip sheet to guide parents or carers to get the most out of the monthly book.

    United Way Australia (UWA) is the local representative for the program, managing all operations including Australian book selection and monthly mail outs to thousands of childrens' homes Australia-wide.

    UWA have been operating the program for the last five years with over 60 partner organisations (including preschools, early years centres, community groups and services) actively incorporating DPIL within their early years framework to grow family reading habits in the home and encourage parent engagement.

    How are books selected and/or ordered?

    United Way works with a committee of early education professionals considering the diverse backgrounds of children including indigenous and CALD backgrounds and the content of each book selected.  New books are purchased from Penguin Random House Australia at a low bulk cost due to our international agreement for book supply. The books are mostly Australian authors and illustrators.

    In order to make the monthly ordering process as seamless as possible, each community partner/ Kindergarten service is provided with a secure online database to register child enrolments which are in turn added to the monthly mail outs Australia-wide. United Way staff set up and assist with training on the database and ongoing support for the duration of the program installation.

    Detailed Costs

    The cost for the program is fixed at a per registration (child/book) unit cost of $9 per month including postage. The total cost for Kindergartens depends on the enrolment capacity with a minimum requirement of 6 or 12 months. The program has chosen books selected from birth through to five years.

    Additional books can be purchased for the Kindergartens to be posted at the same time as the books are sent to homes, for reading and planning activities surrounding the chosen book.

    A one off administrative set up cost is charged at $180 per Kindergarten. DPIL Promotional materials and resources to explain the importance of reading to parents are provided in digital format for use by Kindergartens.

    Implementation Considerations

    Target population: children 5 years and under, and their families.

    Program implementation: kindergartens can choose to conduct activities surrounding the monthly books and utilise the book tip sheets provided to build on the in home reading habits.

    Staffing: a member of staff is required to enter registrations into the secure database and to update registration details when a family advises they are moving, or a new child enrols into the Kindergarten.

    Factors to consider: the Imagination Library focusses on building a home library and targets early literacy in the home. Kindergartens may need to consider during planning phase, how to best support parents/carers to further develop their skills in book-sharing with their children in order for the program to effectively enhance children's development.

    United Way encourages partnering with local public libraries and assisting families to sign up their children to their library to further prepare their children to become independent learners and prepare for school.

    The program is of maximum benefit to families when it is installed over one or multiple years.  

    For an information pack and to discuss the program further please contact the organisation directly.

    Australian experience: the Dolly Parton Imagination Library started in the United States, and has since been implemented in Canada, the UK and Australia.

    Strength of Evidence

    Not applicable