Councilman Bobby Wilson Announces Relaunch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in City of Pittsburgh 

 

City Council Seal

Pittsburgh, PA (August 3, 2023)— Speaking at the Colonel James Anderson Monument on the Northside, Pittsburgh City Councilman Bobby Wilson (District 1) announced at a press conference today that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will relaunch this month in the City of Pittsburgh. 

“The children of Pittsburgh are excited to each receive their own book from Dolly Parton. When they got a letter saying this program had paused earlier this summer, I wanted to figure out how we could get it running again,” explained Councilman Wilson. “I am very appreciative of everyone, from the City of Pittsburgh to our partners at the foundations and Reading Ready Pittsburgh, who came together in the last few months to fund, house, and launch this program. And I’m excited that now all children in Pittsburgh who are signed up will be getting their free book from Dolly Parton this month!”

Councilman Wilson was joined by City of Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak, Regional Director at The Dollywood Foundation Lauren Wirt, Reading Ready Pittsburgh Board Treasurer Eugene O’Sullivan, and The Benter Foundation president William Benter and Executive Director Kathy Buechel at this press conference, where they celebrated the program’s relaunch. 

“This is a valuable program and a strong partnership,” said William Benter, president of The Benter Foundation. “We’re pleased to join with government, foundation, and early literacy leaders to do something simple but powerful. By sending books home monthly to young children in Pittsburgh, together, we hope to nurture the opportunities that come from a lifelong love of reading.”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book-gifting program for children from birth through age 5, no matter their family’s income. Each month, a new, carefully selected book is mailed directly to the child’s home. There is no cost or obligation to the families of these children. These books are free gifts to children through the Imagination Library’s partnerships with all the local organizations and foundations noted in this release.  

Mary Denison, Executive Director of Reading Ready Pittsburgh, who was unable to attend the press conference, acted as the keystone of the joint efforts to relaunch the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Pittsburgh. She stated that “Reading Ready Pittsburgh is honored to partner with the City of Pittsburgh, The Benter Foundation, and the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation to offer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, nurturing Pittsburgh’s smallest children and encouraging imagination and learning through reading.” 

The relaunch of the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library found additional funding support from the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation. “For a young child receiving the gift of a new book—perhaps their first book ever—the experience isn’t just joyful and memorable. It’s an important step in setting them up for success and lifelong learning,” said Lisa Johns, Vice President, Finance at the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation, part of Hillman Family Foundations. “Early literacy programs like the Imagination Library are fun for kids and families and an asset to their communities. The Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation is pleased to support Reading Ready Pittsburgh and the collective efforts to extend the success of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to children throughout Pittsburgh.”   

“The Dollywood Foundation is thrilled to partner with the City of Pittsburgh once again to gift specially selected, age-appropriate books to children, from birth until their 5th birthday, within the city limits of Pittsburgh,” said Lauren Wirt, Regional Director.  “It has been a joy to work with the Office of Councilman Bobby Wilson, Reading Ready Pittsburgh, The Benter Foundation, and Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is offered to ALL children free of cost to the families, no matter their income, since it is a gift from Dolly Parton and the local community. This gift provides the opportunity for ALL children under age 5 to read and love the same books before ever entering kindergarten. Importantly, this gift provides an exciting event in homes to share a moment as family.” 

Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak assisted greatly in ensuring the viability of the City of Pittsburgh’s partnership with Reading Ready Pittsburgh and all the foundations noted prior to the relaunch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library within the City of Pittsburgh. He added, “We are thankful to be able to bring back this program that will help put more books into the hands of the children of Pittsburgh. This beloved program will continue to inspire and instill a love of reading for years to come.” 

For press inquiries, please contact Councilman Wilson’s Community Relations Manager, Julianne Hluska, at (412) 676-5758 or julianne.hluska@pittsburghpa.gov.

Sponsors Logos: Imgaination Library, Reading Ready PGH, Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation

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