Reading is food for the brain! Children who have a favourite book are more likely to become confident readers. Having books at home makes a real difference to babies' and children’s love of stories and books. This gives them a flying start in learning to talk and read, and extends their language - children's vocabulary at age five is the biggest predictor of how well they do later in life. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL) was set up to increase the number of children’s books in families’ homes. Each child receives a free book every month from birth to five, delivered directly to them at their home address.
how it is funded - and how you can help
The Peep Imagination Library started in the Leys in south Oxford in April 2014. It is offered to all local families with under fives - and 554 children currently receive their free book every month. The total number of books delivered to local families to date is 13,396. In 2017-18 alone we delivered 6,278 books. We have some funding in place for this year - but not enough to reach all the children this year and next.
We urgently need to raise more funds to enable us to continue and expand the library. £3 per month (£36 a year) will fund a book a month for one family (includes postage). Please click the link if you would like to support this through a one-off or monthly contribution.
what do the children receive?
Dolly Parton Imagination Library works with Penguin books, and the book list is chosen to provide a range of high quality, age-appropriate books. Eight weeks after a baby is registered they receive the first book. We have started giving out the ‘welcome book’, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, when the parent registers so that they have a book straight away. The families really enjoy this first book - and the welcome letter from Dolly Parton inside the front cover. The books come addressed to the child every month and continue until the child is 5 years old, when they receive the graduation book. This means the child could have a library of over 60 books.
We collect feedback from the parents, children and practitioners - here are some of their comments:
feedback from the families:
‘Her face lights up each time a book arrives.’ Peep Pre-school parent
‘We love reading the books together.’ Peep group parent
‘We have been sent some really nice books and books are really expensive so these are useful and all relevant for his age. Also his sister enjoys reading them with him’ Peep baby group parent
‘It is always such a delight to receive one of the imagination Library books. All the family reads it. She has her own shelf where we now keep her books. Normally she sleeps in bed with one of her books so when she wakes up she is enjoying it.’ Peep parent
‘The children feel special when the parcel comes with their name on it. He has a special bag for his books. He and his sister put the new one in the bag and they count how many there are.’ Parent on a home visit
‘When my book comes, I say – thank you Dolly Parton’ Peep Pre-School child aged 4 years
‘We love the books we get as my son likes books now and we always carry one with us. Books can cost a lot of money so it’s not something we can buy. It’s good for learning too.’ Peep group parent
‘We have been introduced to new books we would never have tried. My son has 4 absolute favourite books and 3 of them come from you! Thank you. He loves them.’ Peep Pre-school parent
feedback from practitioners:
‘I love hearing the parents talk about the books. The babies in my group love book sharing time and I’m sure they will always have a love of books – how lovely is that!’ Peep practitioner
‘The books are a great talking point and we have really good discussions in the group about the latest book that has arrived and what the children like about it.’ Peep practitioner
‘One mum in our group said ‘it’s like winning the lottery, and I never win anything usually’. This mum has been having a hard time and she really loved the opportunity for her baby.’ Peep practitioner
‘The parents that come to the children centre talk about the books they have received, they get so excited when a new book arrives.’ Children’s centre practitioner
inviting families to join
We reach families in a variety of ways:
Home visits: The Hamilton Trust funds us to do antenatal home visits. The Leys Children’s Centre funds us to visit all families with a new baby or who are new to the area (who have given their consent for a visit via their health visitor). During these home visits we share information about the local children’s centre and the Peep groups available in the area, so we added the opportunity to register with the Peep Imagination Library.
Child health clinic drop-in and Peep groups: We share information via our weekly term-time drop-in session at a local child health clinic (Early Explorers), as well as local antenatal and baby Peep groups.
Peep Pre-school: We held a Peter Rabbit event and invited all the Pre-school families to attend and sign up for their Peep Imagination Library journey, which was extremely popular. The Pre-school also receive a book every month, so the children see the book in Pre-school and at home. The Pre-school staff extend the book with related activities in the sessions.
Partnership work: At Peeple we have built up good links with partner agencies and other professionals such as health visitors, sharing what we do and how we register the families. For example, one health visitor is working with a traveller family that had no fixed address, so the books had nowhere to be delivered. We arranged for the books to be delivered to the health centre and the health visitor delivers the books on her visits.
Word of mouth: Free books are a great way to engage with families. More families are hearing about the local Imagination Library through word of mouth, so they are starting to contact us when they have a baby.
setting up your own Imagination Library
If you’re interested in setting up an Imagination Library in your area then check out the DPIL UK website for further info - or to check if there already is one near your. It really complements our local Peep work and the families love it. We attend the bi-annual Dolly Parton Imagination Library UK's biennial conference, and have twice presented there. If you already have a local Imagination Library then do get in touch with us if you have any other questions about using it alongside Peep, or if you'd like to attend Peep practitioner training to broaden your skills in sharing books and stories with families.
contact us to find out more about the peep imagination library
or to commission peep services in oxfordshire: