Panto-goers in Nottingham have been donating generously this Christmas as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library raises £1,000 in just 2 weeks.

Nottingham Playhouse teamed up with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to raise funds for free books for children. The book gifting scheme is one of the official panto charities for this year’s performances of Dick Wittington.

Volunteers from across the city have been collecting donations at performances and in just 10 shows people have donated £1,000, that means their generous donations have helped get 400 books to children in Nottingham.

Dolly Parton look-a-likes will still be on hand at performances until January, so people have plenty of time to support the scheme that gives free books to children from birth until their fifth birthday.

Dolly’s scheme is already running in some parts of the City. Originally sparked by volunteers in Wollaton, the scheme gained support from The Rotary Club of Nottingham, Castle Cavendish and Nottingham City Council. The scheme is being expanded further thanks to Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC) – a £45m programme of activities and initiatives headed up by Nottingham CityCare partnership to help give Nottingham’s 0-3 year olds a better start in life.

The biggest contributor to the Imagination library in Nottingham so far has been Castle Cavendish, who fund the scheme in the Radford and Lenton area.

This scheme is about early intervention and getting children ready for primary school; in Nottingham children are likely to start school with reading skills up to 14% behind the national average (see notes below). Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been proven to tackle this problem effectively and support children to improve early reading skills.

Dolly Parton PantoCouncillor David Mellen, the Portfolio Holder for Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years, said: “The generosity of people in Nottingham is really overwhelming and we are so delighted the Playhouse is helping us to support the Imagination Library.

“This amazing charity helps to inspire children to love books. We know reading changes lives. It broadens horizons and opens up a whole world of opportunities. However, funds are needed to expand the scheme and make sure every child in Nottingham can be a part of it.

“Our ambition is to extend the Imagination Library so that every Nottingham child from 0-5 years old can get a free book delivered to their home each month. Together we can ignite a lifelong passion for reading and give our children the very best start in life.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was chosen as one of the Lord Mayor’s official charities for 2015. Councillor Jackie Morris said: “I have chosen to support the Imagination Library because of the great work they do to improve the literacy and the lives of Nottingham children.

“Hundreds of families will be attending Dick Whittington at Nottingham Playhouse over the festive period and we hope that they’re able to support us by donating whatever they can.”

Chief Executive at Nottingham Playhouse, Stephanie Sirr said, “We are delighted to be supporting Dolly Patrons Imagination Library with collections after performances of Dick Whittington at Nottingham Playhouse. The charity does fantastic work to improve literacy, raise aspirations and bring families together through reading, so we thought it was an ideal opportunity to help them to raise some vital funds.”

Research shows that early reading helps children to:

  • develop a love of books and reading
  • have dedicated one-to-one time with parents
  • discover new ideas and words
  • perform better at school in reading and writing