Help the Dolly Parton Imagination Library-Amanda Willimack


Guest Columnist

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to children from birth. 

A large body of research has shown children exposed to books at a young age have stronger vocabulary, literacy, attention spans and concentration, and they are better prepared for school. MRIs taken while preschoolers are being read to illustrate active brain development. 

That’s why the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Clinton County has mailed over 74,000 books to registered children from birth to age 5 since its inception in 2012. That effort helps children in the region prepare for kindergarten and a lifetime of reading and learning. 

Currently, 1,225 children are enrolled in the program and are receiving one book a month for the first five years of their lives — for just $25 a year. That’s a total investment of only $125 that gives each child 60 age-appropriate books as he or she grows. 

Each book includes parent engagement tools to encourage young readers to predict, infer, draw conclusions and expand their vocabulary and comprehension. 

Sending roughly 12,000 high quality, Blue Ribbon Series books annually costs the Dolly Parton Imagination Library about $24,000. Private donations and grant dollars assist the organization to financially support these affordable books to families. There is a special focus on low-income and special needs families who may have difficult schedules, transportation barriers, or live far from local libraries. 

“My son is only two, but he loves reading books. We look forward to getting a new one every month,” says Sarah Haines of Clinton, whose son is registered for the program. “It’s hard to get him to stop reading before bed. This month was great, because he loves trains right now and we got The Sleep Train. So thankful for this program!”

Support from the United Way is very special to us. They support nearly half of our funding and without that support, we would not be able to reach near the amount of children we do. We do have a special relationship as I believe we are the only county-wide program supported by United Way of Clinton County. 

Other sponsors include: LincolnWay Community Foundation (an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque), DeWitt Noon Lions, Lawlor Trust, Union Pacific Railroad Foundation and many parents and grandparents. Donations of just $25 will support sending books to a child each month for a year. Gifts of $125 support sending books to five children for a year. Support can be mailed to:

Imagination Library 

PO Box 225

DeWitt, IA, 52742

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library holds a fund with the LincolnWay Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. The LincolnWay Community Foundation assists in charitable projects and programs that contribute to the quality of life in rural Clinton County. The foundation provides grants, scholarships, tax benefits and administration services to organizations, churches, schools and individuals with charitable intent in the following areas: Calamus, Charlotte, Delmar, DeWitt, Goose Lake, Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Low Moor, Welton and Wheatland. To learn more, visit

Amanda Willimack is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program coordinator.