Imagination Library Benefits: Research and Findings

Over forty independent studies have shown that Imagination Library is having a significant and positive impact on family literacy habits, kindergarten readiness, and 3rd grade reading on grade level.


A 2021 report, prepared by The Center for Community Solutions, highlights the transformational and measurable impacts of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) on family reading habits and kindergarten readiness. It includes an analysis done by Case Western Reserve University and the results of a recent survey sent to families enrolled in the program.

Summary of the Results

The Case Western Reserve University analysis has shown:

  • A positive correlation between enrollment in DPIL and a child’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) score
  • The longer a child is enrolled in DPIL, the higher their KRA score
  • These differences cannot be directly attributed to DPIL without statistical controls. An impact study is forthcoming.

Furthermore, in a 2021 survey sent to families participating in DPIL, the majority of families report:

  • Reading to their child/children more often since receiving DPIL books
  • Their child is asking to be read to more often since receiving DPIL books
  • Feeling DPIL is better preparing their child for kindergarten
  • Their child using new words they learned in DPIL books more often
  • Appreciating the uniqueness, variety, and diversity of characters in DPIL books

The survey results showed an even greater positive impact in zip codes with higher rates of poverty.

These findings are consistent with other studies conducted around the nation. Here, in Cuyahoga County, we see the importance of this program and the true impact it is having on our community.


Economic Analysis of the Warren County Imagination Library 2021

This study details the long-term economic benefits of the Imagination Library in Warren County, Ohio. It found that every $1 spent by the Warren County Imagination Library yields an additional $2.89 in net annual economic benefits.

Other studies from around the country have shown that enrollment in Imagination Library leads to:
  • A richer home literacy environment
    • Parents read aloud more to their children and were more comfortable reading as a result of DPIL
    • Parents reported their children owned more books as a result of participating in the program
  • Positive attitudes about reading and motivation to read among caregivers and children during book reading
    • Participating family members were overwhelmingly positive about the program and its impact on their children when asked in questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups.
    • Community members, including Imagination Library partners and preschool and kindergarten teachers, also had positive views of the program and its impact on book ownership and literacy practices in homes
    • The positive view 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
  • Increased interactions between caregivers and children in book reading
    • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading due to receiving the books each month
    • Participating children were excited when their DPIL books arrived in the mail monthly, addressed specifically to the child
    • Some studies found DPIL had promise with respect to developing children’s early literacy skills, as participants had more advanced skills than their classmates who did not participate in the program.
    • One study found better attendance and fewer school suspensions for children who had been enrolled in the Imagination Library program.
    • Specific research in Syracuse, NY “Is participation in the DPIL associated with higher levels of kindergarten readiness”: For those consistently enrolled in the program (3-4 years), there was a 28.9% increase in children ready for kindergarten, according to the AIMSweb LNF (Letter Naming Fluency) (Letter Naming Fluency – identified frequently as the best single indicator of risk for reading failure (Elliot, Lee & Tollefson 2001, Hintze, Ryan, & Stoner 2003).

Why is the information cited above important?

  • Access to books is key to reading skills. Studies confirm that the number of books in the home directly predicts reading achievement.  Children who grew up with books in their homes reached a higher level of education than those who did not. (Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success)
  • The single most important factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home before starting school. (National Commission on Reading)
  • In middle income neighborhoods, the ratio is 13 books per child; in low income neighborhoods, the ratio is one book for every 300 children. (Neuman, Susan B and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbooks of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006)
  • Storybook reading has been shown to have a powerful effect upon young children’s literacy knowledge and subsequent achievement of measures of early literacy skills/strategies (e.g., Neuman, 1996; Paratore & Edwards, 2011)
  • Concepts about print (including print knowledge and visually processing) and letter knowledge (including alphabetic recognition) were shown as two key variables predictive of later literacy achievement for early literacy learners (e.g., National Early Literacy Panel, 2009; Teale & Sulzby, 1986)
  • 60% of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book. (Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading, D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein)
  • Reading aloud to children at a young age can positively impact their brain development: When preschool children listen to stories, it activates the areas of their brains that are associated with processing images and narrative comprehension. (Pediatrics – Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. (PEER method, CROWD prompts.) (Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers by Grover J. Whitehurst).