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Sacramento, April 27, 2022—Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced today their bipartisan legislation in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to establish California’s first Statewide Imagination Library Program unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee today.

SB 1183, which would establish the statewide program under the direction of the State Librarian, is the first time Senators Atkins and Grove have coauthored legislation. The program would establish a comprehensive initiative for encouraging preschool children to develop a love of reading and learning.

“A book is a door to limitless opportunities for children,” said Senator Shannon Grove. “Dolly Parton’s favorite book, A Little Engine That Could, has inspired generations of children. The book’s message is that with a little bit of work and a positive mindset, no matter the obstacles, children can achieve anything they dream. I am honored Dolly Parton has chosen California as her next stop on this railway of dreams to bring millions of books to millions of children in California. I am grateful to President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ for her partnership on SB 1183 and her passion for children’s literacy.”

The statewide Imagination Library program will focus on gifting monthly, free, age-appropriate books to California’s early readers, from birth until age five, through a direct mail program. Research shows that early reading offers numerous benefits for childhood development in the first five years of life, by inspiring the love of books and reading. Getting children excited about owning books and inspiring shared family reading helps build language, memory skills and spark a child’s imagination. Young children who are exposed to a variety of books and reading early on perform at higher levels in school.

“Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had two great loves: books and Dolly Parton. It is an absolute joy to work with Senator Grove on legislation that brings them together,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “By bringing the Imagination Library to California, we can help ensure that all children—no matter where they live or how much money their families have—are able to access books that will spark curiosity and open the door to new adventures. As Dolly says, ‘The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.’ SB 1183 is the garden bed.”

Since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has delivered more than 178 million books to children in thousands of communities worldwide. Existing local programs in California have seen rising interest and success for this program, especially in rural and hard to reach communities where libraries and books are more difficult to access. This bill intends to foster a love of reading in California’s communities by providing more books to early readers and families.

SB 1183 will next be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins

Senator Shannon Grove represents California’s 16th Senate District which encompasses large portions of Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino counties and including the cities of Bakersfield, Barstow, California City, Exeter, Frazier Mountain, Joshua Tree, Mojave, Needles, Ridgecrest, Rosamond, Taft, Tehachapi, Twentynine Palms, Tulare, Visalia, Yucca Valley and portions of the Kern River Valley. Website of Senator Shannon Grove: https://grove.cssrc.us/

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world. In partnership with local community affiliates, the program has gifted well over 178 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland. 

Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, Dolly Parton started her Imagination Library in 1995 to foster a love of reading for the children within her home county. Today, her program mails over 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month directly to children’s homes. Each child enrolled in the program receives one book per month until their fifth birthday – at no cost to families.  

The impact of the program has been widely researched, and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics.