Essential knowledge to grow on.

Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation/Tennessee’s Imagination Library

Studies show that children with as few as 25 books in the home complete an average of two more years of schooling than those without books. However, research finds that in middle income neighborhoods, the book to child ratio is 13 to 1, compared to 1 in 300 in low-income neighborhoods. To ensure all Tennessee preschool children have access to books, Gov. Phil Bredesen created Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) in 2004 to expand and support the efforts of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library throughout Tennessee. GBBF works to build a foundation for reading and learning through books for Tennessee’s children. Watch this video celebration from GBBF's 10-Year Anniversary to learn more about this unique and highly effective partnership.

Small Beginnings in Sevier County

In 1996, country music legend Dolly Parton created the Imagination Library program to provide books to the children in her home county of Sevier County, Tennessee.

Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library serves children throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and even the United Kingdom. The program provides high quality, age-appropriate books to registered children from birth to age 5—giving preschoolers a total of 60 books before the time they enter kindergarten. Each month, one new book is mailed directly to each enrolled child’s home, at no cost to the family and regardless of the family’s income. See what the kids have to say in this video.

The Strong, Statewide Partnership Today

Gov. Bredesen wanted to give the gift of books to ALL preschoolers in Tennessee. Since the creation of Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has expanded to all 95 counties in Tennessee, giving preschoolers statewide the opportunity to receive this monthly gift. The core mission of GBBF is to build a foundation for reading and learning through books for Tennessee’s children. Founded in 2004 to provide financial and administrative support for affiliate Imagination Library programs in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the Foundation funds 50% of the costs of books and mailing each month and provides customized fundraising, volunteer training, and public relations support. Together, GBBF and the county volunteer leadership assist all Tennessee preschool children in developing their vocabulary, school readiness, and love of learning and reading through this program.

Thanks to the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library:

  • More than 27.5 million books have been delivered to Tennessee children since October 2004.
  • All of the state’s 407,813 children under age 5 have access to the Imagination Library at no cost to their families.
  • Over 64% of Tennessee children under the age of 5 are currently receiving one book each month at their home through the Imagination Library Program
  • Almost 517,000 five-year-olds have “graduated" from Tennessee’s Imagination Library since 2004.

What's next?

Did you know reading with a child in an interactive style raises a child’s IQ by 6 points? Imagination Library participation has consistently been shown to increase the amount of one-on-one reading time and nurturing between children and adults. In the Imagination Library model, parents are encouraged to read with the child, instead of to the child, so that parents remain engaged. The establishment of family reading routines helps to bring about increased stability, emotional well-being and improved atmosphere in families facing difficulties, such as poverty and stress experienced by families where parents work long hours and have limited support raising children. GBBF provides helpful reading tools and activities for parents and caregivers; the materials work hand in hand with the books their children receive. These are available for download at the Governor's Foundation website.

Get more tips on reading with babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Learn more benefits of reading to your child.

Get information on eBooks for children.

Get Involved!

To learn more about Tennessee’s Imagination Library and how to register your child, look for the official Imagination Library brochures available at your local public library, health department, pediatrician’s office or childcare center.

You may also register a child online by visiting Governor's Foundation or by calling toll-free 877-99-BOOKS.

Visit the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation to locate the Imagination Library program in your county.