A Nottingham scheme that gives free books to children has reached another major milestone.

10,000 Nottingham children have now received books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The book-gifting charity was introduced in the city in 2009.

Nearly 6,000 children are currently registered to have a book delivered to their door every month – covering half of the city’s 20 wards. In addition, just over 4,000 children have now graduated from the scheme.

The Imagination Library improves children’s literacy levels so that they are better prepared to start school. Age-appropriate books are personally addressed to the child every month from birth, allowing them to build up a library of 60 books over five years. Research has shown that for those children who have graduated from the scheme, academic achievement has improved.

Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, has been involved with the initiative since 2011, following the Council’s ‘Year of Reading’, said: “Giving the gift of reading to Nottingham children is so important.

“This scheme not only ignites a love of reading, but it is proven to improve the literacy skills of our city’s children, getting them ready for school, helping them achieve more in their journeys through education and, in turn, be more successful in their working lives. 

“I am really proud that 10,000 children have now benefited from the scheme. The charity is reliant on the generosity of sponsors and fundraisers like the Domlal Family Foundation, who pledged £12,500 in 2021 and Eden PR who donate their time free of charge to support the promotion of the Imagination Library.

‘Recently however and with regret due to a lack of funds through donations, the scheme has had to stop enrolling new children in some areas of the city. Therefore, now more than ever, we really need the support of people and businesses to donate. Just £2 can help pay for a child to get a new book, while £125 pays for a child to get a book every month from birth until their fifth birthday”.

Cheryl Mitchell, a teaching assistant at Fernwood Infant School in Wollaton, first sparked the vision of the Imagination Library in Nottingham in 2009. Momentum gathered when the Rotary Club of Nottingham worked with the City Council to co-ordinate fundraising which enabled the scheme to be set up in Bilborough in 2012.

Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Schools, said: “Reading is a life skill and a constant source of knowledge and learning, but also something which many people simply develop a love for – and most often that starts from a young age.

“Unfortunately, not all Nottingham children have access to a range of books in their home. We know that sharing stories regularly can help prepare them for nursery and that reading with children is one of the best ways to set them up for a bright future.”

The Nottingham scheme is supported by local organisations, The Rotary Club of Nottingham and Small Steps Big Changes – but it relies on ongoing sponsorship and donations.

Every donation helps:

  • £2 can pay for a child to get a new book
  • £25 can pay for a child to get a new book each month for a year
  • £125 pays for a child to get a book every month from birth until their 5th birthday

If you would like to give the gift of reading and donate or if want to find out more about the Imagination Library, visit: www.dollybooksnottingham.org