Dolly Parton's 'Imagination Library' gives free books to Cedar R - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dolly Parton's 'Imagination Library' gives free books to Cedar Rapids children

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Country music legend Dolly Parton has been giving children the gift of books for more than 20 years through Dolly Parton's 'Imagination Library' and now that gift has made its way to Cedar Rapids. 

Parton says the program was created as a tribute to her father. 

"I knew in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from seeing all his dreams come true. Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission," she says in an interview on the 'Imagination Library' website. 

To receive the books, parents simply register their kids, who will then get a new book every month in the mail until their 5th birthday. 

If starting from birth, children will receive 60 books before they even start kindergarten. 

"When kids start reading or are read to from birth, it totally changes the way that their brains function.  And so we know that it's incredibly important for kids to have access," says Amber Mussman, Community Relations Manager at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. 

The Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation helped bring the program to the city where 25% of children aren't reading proficiently by third grade.  In low-income homes, the statistics are even worse. 

"So it's evening out the playing field.  It's making sure that, once those children do get to kindergarten, they are having a shared reading experience regardless of their living situation," says Charity Tyler, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation. 

More than 2,000 kids have already registered to be a part of the program in Cedar Rapids.  It just launched to the public on Wednesday and, in 48 hours, we are told 500 new kids registered. 

The library wants to stress the program is open to everyone, not just kids in need.  Children simply have to be under the age of five and live in Cedar Rapids. 

The downtown library location will be hosting a celebration on April 14th, where they will be signing kids up.  Representatives from the Dollywood Foundation will be there. 

You can stop by either Cedar Rapids library location to sign up anytime, or you can register your child online at: CRLibrary.org/Imagination-Library.

The library does have to pay for the cost of mailing the books.  They have had generous donations so far, but will continue to fundraise in order to sustain the program long-term. It will cost them about $25 per-kid a year. 

Dolly Parton just gave her 100 millionth book to the Library of Congress last week. 

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