A Doorway to Imagination: Pennsylvania Could Join Dolly Parton’s Worldwide Book Program for Children

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BLUE BELL, PA — The magic of storytelling may soon come knocking at the mailboxes of Pennsylvania’s youngest residents. State Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, has introduced legislation that aims to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the Keystone State, promising free books for hundreds of thousands of children.

The Imagination Library, a globally recognized program, mails age-appropriate books to children from birth until they reach five years old, irrespective of their household income. Hanbidge’s proposed law, House Bill 2025, seeks to amend the Public School Code of 1949, thereby establishing the Statewide Imagination Library Program and the Imagination Library of Pennsylvania Restricted Account. The cost of implementing this literary initiative is estimated at $13 per child.

The potential impact of this bill can’t be overstated. According to Hanbidge, “Children participating in the Imagination Library show increased readiness for kindergarten and maintain higher reading achievement scores through ninth grade compared to their non-participating peers.” This evidence suggests that early exposure to books could significantly enhance a child’s educational journey.

Reading, as Hanbidge points out, is fundamental to our society and history. “By introducing people to books at a young age, we can show them the joys and pleasure of reading instead of it being perceived as a chore,” she said. This legislation is not just about literacy; it’s about fostering a love of learning and creating a culture of curiosity in the next generation.

Currently, the bill awaits consideration in the House Education Committee. A companion bill, S.B. 1097, is circulating for additional co-sponsors. If passed, Pennsylvania would join the ranks of 20 other states that have enacted laws to establish statewide Imagination Library programs.

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Currently, more than 53,000 Pennsylvania children across 44 counties are enrolled in the Imagination Library. However, with approximately 700,000 eligible children in the Commonwealth, the potential for expansion is immense.

The Imagination Library concept has already proven its worth elsewhere. Each month, over 2 million children worldwide receive a free book through Imagination Library initiatives. Studies have shown that these book recipients tend to develop a more enthusiastic attitude toward reading, engage in regular reading activities with their families, and exhibit higher levels of preparedness by the time they start kindergarten.

In an era where digital devices often steal the spotlight, the power of a physical book—its pages, illustrations, and the feel of it in one’s hands—cannot be underestimated. By bringing the Imagination Library to Pennsylvania, this legislation could open up a world of imagination and learning for the state’s youngest residents, setting them on a path to lifelong learning and success.

In the words of Dolly Parton herself, “The seeds of dreams are often found in books, and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.” If House Bill 2025 becomes law, Pennsylvania will be planting those seeds for its future generations, one book at a time.

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