The foundation for lifelong learning is built during the early
critical years of life.

The first few years of a child’s life are when the brain grows and develops the most, and a child’s experiences in these early years affect how their brain develops. A child's brain produces more than 1 million new neural connections every second. A newborn’s brain is about a quarter of the size of the average adult brain. Incredibly, it doubles in size in the first year and keeps growing to about 80 percent of adult size by age three and 90 percent — nearly full grown — by age five.

This “wiring” shapes infants and toddlers’ ability to learn to read and think critically. Because of that fact, as early as age three, a child’s vocabulary can predict third-grade reading achievement. What is the best way to ensure a child is armed with the knowledge they need to succeed? Reading aloud to that child and giving them access to books.

Through our partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, we are working to send every child in Washington from birth to age five a new book each month. Research has shown that a child with 25 books in their home complete an average of two additional years of schooling compared to their peers without books in their home. (1)

We cannot do this work alone. The important efforts of all Imagination Library affiliates, community partners, and stakeholders are bringing free books into the homes of over 113,000 Washington children to-date.  Together, we will ensure that all Washington early learners can have the gift of literacy to succeed in school and beyond, and are inspired to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More!

Washington Research and Outcomes

In the first quarter of 2024, Imagination Library of Washington conducted two bodies of research that uncovered key impacts of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library on Washington's early learners; a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Pilot Study (in partnership with Longview Public Schools) and a statewide Parent Survey. 

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment unveiled children who had participated in the Imagination Library prior to entering kindergarten performed better overall on the Fall 2023 WaKIDS Kindergarten Readiness Assessment compared to their peers who were not enrolled in the monthly book-gifting program. 

The statewide Parent Survey conducted in March-April 2024 revealed significant discoveries:

  • 92% of parents/caregivers believe that participating in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is helping to prepare their child(ren) for kindergarten
  • 85% of families reported seeing positive changes in their children in terms of increased vocabulary, increased listening and social skills, and an increased interest in reading.
  • Since receiving Imagination Library books, 77% of parents/caretakers read once a day or more with their child.

Click image to download full assessment.

Click image to download full survey results.

Research and Outcomes (National)

The benefits of the Imagination Library go beyond children having more books. Early language development is critical to a child’s literacy. And participants receiving books through the Imagination Library have been able to see this development in real time.


1. University of Nevada, Reno. "Books in home as important as parents' education in determining children's education level." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2010.

2. Schweinhart, L.J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W.S., Belfield, C.R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

3. Neuman, S.B. & Dickinson, D.K. (Ed.) (2006). Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

4. Berk, L. E. (Ed.). (2009). Child Development (8th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.