Dolly Parton: ‘No place has worked harder than Nottingham for my reading charity’

Video: Lord Mayor Jackie Morris talks about the city’s work with Dolly Parton’s charity

More than 2,500 children in Notts are now more likely to be ready for school by the age of five thanks to Dolly Parton’s reading charity.

Nottingham City Council teamed up with the ‘9 to 5’ singer’s Imagination Library project a year ago to launch several bold targets.

Although it has been in the city since 2009, city leaders asked local people and businesses last May to help fund a goal of £37,000 each year to pay for a collection of 60 books for each youngster by the time they reach their fifth birthday.

The project, founded in 1995 by Dolly in her native Tennessee, was set up with the intention of getting children to fall in love with reading.

A study showed children consistently enrolled in the project are 28.9 per cent more likely to be ready for school at age five than those children who aren’t part of the scheme.

And in total 49,964 books have been given to Nottingham children since 2009 thanks to the library.

The goal is to change figures showing Nottingham children are likely to start school with reading skills up to 14 per cent behind the national average.

Dolly’s charity first made the hop over the Atlantic to Nottingham in 2009 after a teaching assistant at Fernwood School, Wollaton, began work with the charity, before it expanded to other areas including Hyson Green and Radford thanks to some major funding from Castle Cavendish.

Video: Dolly Parton tries to say ‘ay up’ in a campaign video

On Thursday academics, politicians and researchers gathered at ‘Dolly’s Homecoming event’ at Nottingham Castle to look into how children in the city have benefited.

Also present was the Lord Mayor of Nottingham Councillor Jackie Morris, who said: “You’ve only got to look around and see all the children here.

“It’s just so exciting that this (the event) is happening. It would be amazing if the rest of England really got on board with it.”

Dolly Parton said: “I don’t think there is a place in the entire world that has worked as hard or had as much fun with launching the Imagination Library. You are all very special people. Kind and generous and totally committed to your kids.

“The people of Nottingham are really working together to make sure even more kids have the opportunity to develop a love of books from the earliest possible age. This program is one of the most important ways I know to improve the educational opportunities for children in our communities.

“I want kids to love books, to have an emotional connection – even a reverence for books. I am most proud of the fact that every child in the Imagination Library does not have to grow up without books in their home.”

The charity relies on donations from businesses and members of the public.

Councillor David Mellen is the council’s portfolio holder for early years.

He said:  “It has been proven that children are better prepared for school and the benefits are far-reaching. Making time to read with your children is so important because shared reading leads to a love of books. And we know that reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on life outcomes – and this is as much about confidence and well-being as it is about educational achievements.”

As part of the fundraising drive, Nottingham City Council is holding cake sales, a ‘Double Denim’ day and staff will be dressing up as book characters or in Dolly fancy dress at Loxley House to help raise funds.

Staff are also being encouraged to donate to the charity and sponsor a Nottingham child by setting up a monthly donation. It costs a total of £125 for a Nottingham child to receive the books from birth until age five.

To donate to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library or to find out more information about the charity head to

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