Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library reach 1-million book milestone

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The 1 millionth book was delivered this month directly to the home of a young North Carolina child thanks to a partnership between the globally recognized early literacy program Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Smart Start, North Carolina’s early childhood network.

The program has currently registered nearly 200,000 children to date.

“Smart Start and the Imagination Library dared to dream big and look what we have done!” said Dolly Parton, the founder of the program. “And best of all we are just getting started. We want to inspire every child in North Carolina to love reading and to love learning.”

During the 2017 legislative session, North Carolina state lawmakers included $3.5 million in the first year of the budget and $7 million in the second year for the Smart Start network to offer free books through Imagination Library to children across the state.

Imagination Library is a program created to foster 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.

“What an incredible milestone,” said Cindy Watkins, president of the North Carolina Partnership for Children that oversees the Smart Start network. “I am grateful to our state leadership for recognizing how important it is to get books into the hands of our youngest children. With this funding, the Smart Start network was able to get Imagination Library directly to our communities very quickly.”

Smart Start began rolling out Imagination Library in October 2017, and the program is now available to every child in the state under the age of 5. With 75 local partnerships across the state, Smart Start continues to enroll young children to get as many books into the homes of North Carolina children as possible.

Locally, the Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children is working to register families within Beaufort and Hyde counties. To date, more than 1,120 children, or approximately 30 percent of children between birth and 4 years old, are enrolled in the organization’s service area.

“Developing a love for reading early is a critical piece of the foundation for lifelong learning and success,“ said Lisa Woolard, executive director of the Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children. “By June 2019, our goal is to have 50 percent of children under the age of 5 receiving these books in the mail in Beaufort and Hyde counties.”

To find out more about Smart Start and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library partnership, or to enroll a child in North Carolina, visit More information is available online at and