IMG_1184If things had gone differently, I would have gone into library sciences and become a librarian. Books and literacy have always been a huge passion of mine; when my younger brother struggled to find a passion for reading, I took it on as my mission to find the stories that would unlock a love for books in him. I found them, and ever since then he’s been as big a bibliophile as I am.

My path has taken me into the financial side of the nonprofit world instead of a library. I love what I do, but I readily admit that it’s not what I expected even a few years ago. Thankfully I’m able to continue sharing my love for books in a new way by helping to administer the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for our local area. We cover Benton, Washington, and Madison counties here in Arkansas as well as McDonald County in Missouri and Delaware County in Oklahoma.

Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in 1995 and it has been running in Northwest Arkansas since 2011. The program is a free service that offers a book a month to children; in its early days here in NWA it was only offered to children under the age of one but we have since opened up registration to any child under the age of five, and we have grown greatly — currently we have almost 1800 children enrolled in the program and have sent out almost 30,000 books locally! We have heard from a number of parents that their children love receiving a book just for them and that it has helped them improve their literacy, making it easier for them to adjust when they begin kindergarten.

The program has also helped parents to improve their own literacy when reading to their children and has been useful in bilingual families, aiding both parent and child in improving their understanding of English.

If you are interested in signing up your child for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library or know someone whose child would benefit, please go to for more information, or you may call us at the United Way offices to receive a paper copy of the application form. You can also support the program by getting involved in our upcoming Bags for Books luncheon and silent auction, as the proceeds will be going to continue funding the Dolly Parton program in our area!

To buy tickets to the luncheon or learn more about Dolly Parton’s imagination Library go

-Written by Belinda Davis