A Nottingham scheme that gives free books to children has now handed out more than half a million.

The 500,000th book has been delivered to a young reader in the city through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The book-gifting charity was introduced in the city in 2009 and now has nearly 5,400 children registered to have a book delivered to their door every month – covering half of the city’s 20 wards.

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.

Close to 11,000 youngsters have now benefitted from the programme across the city during the past 15 years.

Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “Dolly Books is something close to my heart as I’ve been involved since its inception in our city, so to have moved past half a million books distributed is incredible and a source of great pride for everyone who’s donated their time and money.

“There is a clear and demonstrable need in Nottingham to help families access books and to develop a love of reading from a young age. We know that academic assessment is showing an improvement for children involved with Dolly Books, which is so important.

“I hope that we have ignited a lifelong interest in reading among our children, and with the recent opening of the new Central Library, they now have a wonderful facility to access and explore thousands of new books.

“I’m proud of how the charity has grown in the city over the past decade. This is down to the generosity of sponsors and fundraisers who have donated to the Imagination Library. It is a truly incredible achievement to have more than 5,000 children receiving the free books every month, but we’d love to be able to extend it even further.”

Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Education, 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, by which time many are already behind in their development in comparison to their peers.

“Our young people deserve the best possible start in life. We know 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.

Every donation helps:

  • £2.16 is the average cost for a child to get a new book
  • £26 pays for a child to get a new book each month for a year
  • £130 pays for a child to get a book every month from birth until their 5th birthday

For more information about the Imagination Library in Nottingham, or to enquire about making a donation, please email Dolly9to5@nottinghamcity.gov.uk in the first instance.