New bill increases access to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for more kids across NC

House Bill 401, funds for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, was introduced last week by Rep. William Brisson (Bladen & Sampson), Donny Lambeth (Forsyth), and Dean Arp (Union).

It would provide $1.5 million in recurring funds from 2023-2025 to the Smart Start Network to implement Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL).

DPIL is a program that fosters a love of reading among children aged birth to five through the gift of a specially selected book delivered right to their home each month.

With the support of the N.C. General Assembly, Smart Start expanded DPIL in October 2017, and it is, now, available in every county. Smart Start currently administers DPIL for approximately 50% of North Carolina’s eligible children from birth to age 5. Over 14 million books were sent to children across the state.

“Here in Moore County, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is in the homes of 50% of children and over 167,000 books have been sent to children since Imagination Library expansion. With increased funding, we hope to grow this number,” stated Stuart Mills, executive director of Partners for Children & Families, which is Moore County’s Smart Start agency.

“Our state representatives recognize the importance of an early foundation for literacy,” stated Amy Cubbage, president of the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC) that oversees the Smart Start Network. “Because of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, children are fostering a love of literacy, more parents are reading to their children, and children have access to books that they wouldn’t have been able to access.”

In North Carolina, an estimated 300,000 children receive books monthly through this program. In Moore County, almost 3,000 books are delivered to children and families each month. Data from a recent DPIL survey conducted by Smart Start shows that parents who participated in DPIL for any length of time reported an increase in reading to their children daily from 41% before they began receiving books to 62% after enrollment. Additionally, 45% of families reported that without DPIL, they would not have been able to purchase the types of books provided through DPIL for their children.

“Smart Start Local Partnerships work in every community to administer Imagination Library and with additional funding, the Network can work to ensure more children across the state receive books,” stated Cubbage. “Since its expansion we have seen data that shows children are being read to more often and with enhanced reading strategies. I can’t wait to see the trend continue for even more children!”

Additional, DPIL investments will help sustain and expand DPIL across North Carolina by preventing waitlists and covering increasing book, postage, and outreach activity costs — providing critical program support to provide books to more children across the state.

Cubbage continued, “At Smart Start, we are thankful for Rep. Brisson’s leadership on behalf of children and their families. We appreciate his support of this bill as well as the support of Representatives Lambeth and Arp and their acknowledgement of Smart Start’s ability to effectively implement DPIL.”

To find out more about Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partnership, and to check availability and register a child, visit

About Smart Start and The North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC)

Smart Start is a network of 75 nonprofit local partnerships that serve all 100 North Carolina counties. This network is led by NCPC, which ensures fiscal and programmatic accountability and coordinates the statewide Smart Start Network to create better outcomes for children and families.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL)

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book-gifting program for children from birth to age five. The mission of the program is to foster a love of reading in preschool children and ensure that every child born has books, regardless of their family’s income.

Courtesy photo/Contributed.

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