Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Comes to Hartford

Oct.14, 2020

Hartford, Conn. (Oct. 14, 2020) — Children newborn through five-years-old in Hartford now have the opportunity to have free books mailed monthly to their home through a partnership of three hospitals, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Imagination Library is a book-subscription program helping to increase early literacy skills and a love of reading. Children ages 0-5 enrolled in the program will receive a free age-appropriate book by mail every month – creating a home library of 60 books for children enrolled at birth by the start of kindergarten. Books are in English and Spanish.

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center and United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, announced the partnership on Friday. Imagination Library is a component of a city-wide initiative, Hartford’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works to ensure that children start the fourth grade reading at grade level.  United Way is administering Hartford’s Imagination Library and also manages the local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

“Our pediatric experts at Connecticut Children’s know that reading at an early age is critical for brain development,” said James E. Shmerling, President and CEO at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “Imagination Library will help more of our children to grow, learn and succeed and I’m thrilled that our new partnership can bring this resource to Hartford families.”

“Hartford Hospital and Hartford HealthCare could not be more pleased to be a part of this partnership as it underscores our commitment to addressing the social determinants of health in Hartford and indeed throughout Connecticut,” said Bimal Patel, President, Hartford Region and Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare. “Imagination Library is a profoundly important resource to increase early childhood literacy in the great city of Hartford.”

“At Saint Francis Hospital, we are committed to serve as a healing presence to our patients and our community,” said Thomas Burke, BPharm, MBA, Interim President, Saint Francis Hospital. “We are thrilled to add Imagination Library to our toolkit as one more way to ensure our youngest patients, our newborns, have access to books and the opportunity for a bright future.”

Initial outreach will focus on Hartford children, enrolling babies born at Hartford hospitals as well as children who receive care and services from Hartford-based community partners.

Partners did a soft launch of the program this summer. To date,177 children have enrolled in Imagination Library and they have received more than 500 books.

“United Way is committed to ensuring that opportunities are available for every child to succeed academically,” said Paula S. Gilberto, President and CEO, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. “We’re proud to partner with our community healthcare organizations to help children build upon our efforts to help children meet developmental milestones and build their home libraries.”

To enroll a Hartford child in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, visit

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library 

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has mailed well over 100 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.4 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit

Media Contact: Elyssa M. Millspaugh | United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut | 860.493.1119