Nottingham City Council is holding another Big Reading Challenge in a bid to raise funds for a charity that gives free books to children in the city.

City Councillors – including the Leader, Cllr David Mellen – will read to children at schools, libraries, nurseries and children centres across Nottingham. Large-scale readings will even take place to crowds at a Notts County football match and a Nottingham Panthers ice hockey game.

Running from Monday 27 January to Sunday 2 February 2020, the Big Reading Challenge aims to raise £5,000 for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – an amazing scheme that delivers a free book every month to children from birth up until the age of five.

Cllr Mellen will launch the challenge on Monday 27 January by reading to a group of children from Welbeck Primary School in The Meadows on the building site of what is proposed to become the new Central Library on the former Broadmarsh Car Park.

Cllr Mellen said: “The Imagination Library is proven to improve children’s literacy levels. There are currently more than 5,400 Nottingham children registered with the Imagination Library scheme, but we want to do more. Our ambition is for every child in Nottingham to get a free book every month.

“We need to raise funds to make this happen. We’re asking for as many people as possible to support the Big Reading Challenge.

“It feels appropriate that our challenge will start on the building site of what will soon become the best children’s library in the country. Giving children the best start in life is a priority in Nottingham.”

The Imagination Library was set up in Nottingham in 2011 and is now running successfully in 10 of the city’s 20 wards. Supported by Nottingham Rotary Club, Small Steps Big Changes, Trent Vineyard church and hundreds of individual sponsors, more than 5,400 children aged 0 to five currently receive the books each month.

Cllr Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder Children and Young People, said: “Nottingham believes in the importance of reading – not only are we a UNESCO City of Literature but we also have the ambition to create the best children’s library in the UK.

“By getting books, our children are more likely to be ready to start school when they turn five. We know that reading with children is one of the best ways to set them up for a bright future.”

Cllr Neghat Khan, Portfolio Holder for Early Years, Education and Employment, added: “Unfortunately in Nottingham, too many of our children start school behind the expected literacy levels. The Imagination Library ensures that every child receives a free book every month. We need to give our children the joy of reading. This will give them the best start to their schooling and set them on the right path for future employment and success.”

The Big Reading Challenge last year raised £5,000 in 50 days, when Cllr Mellen read stories to more than 6,000 children in the city. This year, the same ambitious target has been set over a much shorter time but will include the help of several City Councillors reading to children in their communities.

The imagination Library in Nottingham relies on donations. Every little helps:

-£2 pays for a child to get a new book

-£25 pays for a new book each month for a year

-£125 pays for a book every month from birth until age five

To support the Big Reading Challenge, please visit the fundraising page

More information about the work of the Imagination Library in Nottingham is available at

About the Dolly Parton Imagination Library

In 1995 Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee. Her vision was to get children to fall in love with reading by giving them a specially selected free book each month from birth until their fifth birthday. By 2000 the scheme was so popular it was rolled out to different communities across the US.

The Nottingham story – The vision of the Imagination Library was first sparked in Nottingham in 2009 by Cheryl Mitchell, a Teaching Assistant at Fernwood Infant School, Wollaton. Cheryl campaigned to raise funds and encouraged people to support the charity.

Momentum gathered when the The Rotary Club of Nottingham worked with Nottingham City Council to help to co-ordinate fundraising which enabled the Imagination Library to be set up in the Nottingham neighbourhood of Bilborough. Nottingham City Council’s Children’s Centres were enrolled to administer the scheme and Health Visitors promoted the scheme to parents.

The scheme was then expanded to Hyson Green, Radford and Dunkirk and Lenton thanks to major funding from Castle Cavendish – a regeneration charity which aims to improve the quality of life for people in Nottingham.

In 2014 Nottingham won a National Lottery bid to support more young children. Headed by Nottingham CityCare partnership, Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) is a £45m programme of activities and initiatives to give Nottingham’s 0-3 year olds a better start in life.

The scheme is now running successfully in 10 of the city’s 20 wards.