A Nottingham campaign delivering free books to children has just passed a major milestone.

Nottingham City Council has been working alongside the Rotary Club of Nottingham to co-ordinate fundraising for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library since the Club chose to adopt the scheme as a project in 2012.

Since then, donations have increased to see more and more local children benefiting – and now the 300,000th book has been sent out in Nottingham.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library delivers a free book for a child to keep and read with their family. They receive these from birth until their fifth birthday.

There are close to 6,000 local children registered with the scheme, which currently runs in ten wards across Nottingham.

It operates as a partnership between the City Council, the Rotary Club of Nottingham and Small Steps Big Changes.

Speaking today (Thursday) on the occasion of World Book Day 2021, Councillor Cheryl Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People at Nottingham City Council, said: “Reaching this milestone is a truly fantastic achievement.

“It’s so heartening for us to know that there are now 300,000 more children’s books filling up bookcases across the city – helping to inspire the imaginations and vocabulary of almost 6,000 local children.

“This is all down to the continuing efforts of our fundraisers and partners, and I’d like to pay tribute to all the hard work that has gone into that.

“It’s so important. The free book is about more than just reading; it is dedicated time that parents are spending with their children, developing a love of books at an early age. As well as the close bond this fosters in families, it can also help with language development.

“However, we need to ensure that people continue to support this charity. We have already seen the scheme significantly extended across Nottingham but in time we would like to see these free books go to every child under five in the city.”

Local data shows that Nottingham children are likely to start school with reading skills up to 14% behind the national average, while research in the United States indicates that children who have been on the scheme for three years or more are 28% more ‘school ready’ than those who have not received the books.

Dolly Parton said: “Thank you to all who have partnered with my Imagination Library to put books into the hands and hearts of so many children in Nottingham. I know it takes a lot of good people to make this happen, and 300,000 books is sure worth celebrating. So congratulations, Nottingham!”

Rotary Club Past President Leonard Gelblum said: “Imagination Library is an excellent example of the public, private and voluntary sectors working together to raise the level of literacy in our community. 

“This early-intervention scheme lays the foundation by getting books into children’s hands and preparing them to read before entering the education system. The long-term benefits of being able to read will help everybody.”

Karla Capstick, Programme Director at Small Steps Big Changes, said: “It is great news for Nottingham children and we are delighted to be part of this amazing achievement. 

“Small Steps Big Changes is dedicated to delivering Imagination Library books to Nottingham children as part of our commitment to communication and language development in the early years. 

“Children love receiving the books addressed to them through the door each month, and we know from the work and research we’ve done with the Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families at Nottingham Trent University what a brilliant resource this is for families in encouraging a love of books, reading and spending time together.”

Amanda Doughty, from Aspley, is one of the parents whose children are part of the scheme.

She said: “We love receiving the Dolly Parton Imagination Library books because of the variety of stories we receive and the range of topics they cover, while still being fun and enjoyable for us to read.”

Donations are always welcome. Just £2 a month is enough to ensure a child gets their free book. Alternatively, a one-off donation of just £25 will pay for one child to receive a free book delivered to their home each month for an entire year.

More information on how to donate is here, or to learn about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library visit www.dollybooksnottingham.org

Councillor Leader David Mellen is pictured with children at Sneinton Windmill in 2019.