United Way actively serving 70 percent of eligible children in Hartford through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library   

Mar.21, 2023

Rossie Alcantara, a Hartford resident, shares how Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library helps keep her son on track developmentally.

Hartford, Conn. (March 21, 2023) — United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, Connecticut Children’s and the City of Hartford announced today that nearly 80,000 books have been delivered to more than 6,700 Hartford children since Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was brought to the City in October of 2020, setting the stage for their physical development, mental health and academic success. The announcement comes in March, which is recognized as National Literacy Month.

Imagination Library is a free book subscription program to increase early literacy skills and foster a love of reading. Children ages 0-5 enrolled in the program receive a free age-appropriate book by mail every month, building a home library of 60 books for children enrolled at birth by the start of kindergarten.

“United Way is committed to ensuring that young children get the best start. We know how critical it is for children to read at grade-level by the start of the fourth grade and exposing them to books at an early stage can make a huge difference in their future. We are thrilled to have reached 70 percent of families since Imagination Library’s introduction to our community. As a long-time United Way Readers volunteer, I’ve seen the joy in their faces when they improve their reading skills and how confident it makes them feel,” said Michael Goldbas, Advocacy Committee Chair, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

James E. Shmerling, DHA, FACHE, President and CEO at Connecticut Children’s added, “Our pediatric experts know that reading at an early age is critical for brain development and future academic success. We are proud to be one of the partners to bring this project to Connecticut, and with the support of United Way, make sure we all commit to the healthy development of our children.”

The announcement takes relevance as the organization recently shared the expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to New Britain, thanks to Congresswoman Jahana Hayes earmarking funds from the Omnibus Bill. “United Way has proved capable of making this program work effectively for the benefit of our children, but a continued investment would help to ensure its sustainability in Hartford and state-wide. We know we can’t do this work alone and so it requires all sectors, public and private, to make sure we can provide this valuable opportunity for our children,” added Goldbas.

“This partnership gives every young child in Hartford the chance to build their own library — to discover a new book every month and to have a shelf full of books that they can go back to again and again,” said Mayor Bronin. “I love this partnership, because there are few things more important than helping kids fall in love with books and reading. Nearly three quarters of the children born in Hartford since we launched this program have enrolled in the Imagination Library, and that means thousands of kids have gotten many thousands of books. I’m incredibly grateful to Jim Shmerling and to Connecticut Childrens for bringing this partnership to us and making Hartford the first city in the state to launch the Imagination Library, and grateful to United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut for their support and work. We look forward to seeing this partnership grow here in Hartford and hopefully statewide.”

To enroll an eligible child in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, visit unitedwayinc.org.


About United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut  
United Way brings people and resources together to address immediate needs and find long-term solutions to challenging problems. United Way does this by investing in programs and services, leading community change initiatives, and mobilizing resources and volunteers to ensure that children succeed in school, people get jobs and are financially secure, people are healthy and basic needs are met during tough times. For more information, visit unitedwayinc.org.

About Connecticut Children’s
Connecticut Children’s is the only health system in Connecticut dedicated to children, providing more than 30 pediatric specialties along with community-based programs. We’re known for exceptional care that kids and parents love, conveniently delivered at locations close to home and by Video Visit. Our experts lead breakthrough research and innovative partnerships, and have won awards for everything from nursing excellence to patient-friendly technology. U.S. News & World Report named us a best children’s hospital in the nation. Connecticut Children’s is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to improve access to health care for all children.


Media Contact: Anyeline Céspedes López | United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut | acespedes@unitedwayinc.org | 787.502.0436