City Launching Dolly Parton Book Gifting Program with Support from Benter Foundation

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 4, 2019) Mayor William Peduto’s administration plans to launch a free book program for children from birth to age 5 with generous support from the Benter Foundation.

Legislation is being introduced to Pittsburgh City Council tomorrow to accept $250,000 from the foundation to establish a pilot effort to introduce Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to the city. Since its inception in 1995 the program from the country music superstar has mailed more than 113 million books, for free, to children in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Studies of the Imagination Library have found that:

  • Parents read aloud more to their children and were more comfortable reading as a result of the program.
  • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading due to receiving the books each month.
  • Participating children were excited when their books arrived in the mail monthly, addressed to them specifically.
  • The positive views of the program and its impacts were present regardless of the demographic characteristics of the community or its participants, and longer program participation often resulted in more positive outcomes.

Once enrolled, a child receives a high-quality, age-appropriate book personally addressed to them until they reach the age of five. The Imagination Library is responsible for covering overhead costs, databases, a book selection committee, and monthly mailings. As an Imagination Library affiliate, the City of Pittsburgh would be responsible for covering the ongoing monthly costs associated with mailing each book, which costs $25 per child for one year, as well as enrollment and promotional activities.

Tiffini Simoneaux, manager of the city’s Office of Early Childhood in Mayor Peduto’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment, is leading the city’s enrollment in the program.

“Research shows that early literacy experiences including access to books in the home are fundamental ingredients for future academic success. This program will enable young children throughout the City to build a home library of up to 60 books,” Simoneaux said.

Once the funding from the Benter Foundation is approved the Office of Early Childhood will launch the first steps of the program, including outreach and communication plans, engaging with local organizations that work with young children and families, and the launch of program.

In addition to monthly mailing costs, the city would also use a small portion of the funding to pay for materials to advertise the program and for community outreach events to promote the program, largely in underserved areas of the city.

“We’re pleased to partner with the City of Pittsburgh and other community allies to help children develop a lifelong love of reading. Having your own books at home unlocks a new world of learning and language that can help Pittsburgh’s children thrive,” said Bill Benter, president of The Benter Foundation.



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Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
Mayor's Office