Peep Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is an amazing book-gifting programme, set up by Dolly to increase the number of children’s books in families’ homes. Each child receives a free book to keep, every month from birth to five, delivered directly to them at their home address.

Why books at home matter: 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. 

‘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 & Imagination Library parent

how it is funded - and how you can help   Donate to our local Imagination Library   

Imagination Libraries are funded by local donations, with subsidised, high-quality children's books provided via the UK branch of Dolly's Imagination Library. The Peep Imagination Library started in the Leys in south Oxford in August 2014 with the help of generous local donors. It extended to include Growing Minds (Littlemore and Berinsfield) in February 2020. 

April 2024 update - the total number of books delivered to local families to date is 63,305!  It is offered to all local families with under fives - 945 children currently receive their free book every month, and 860 have 'graduated', with a bookshelf full of fantastic books to continue reading together at home. In the past year we have delivered 10,860 books!  

We need to raise more funds to enable us to continue and expand our book-giving Imagination Library.  £2.08 per month (£25 a year) will fund a book a month for one family (including postage). Rod Nicholson raised over £6,000  in total Bicycling for Books in August 2023, participating in the world's oldest cycling event, 1200km (750 miles!) from Paris-Brest-Paris. A huge thanks to Rod and everyone who so generously donated.

Any donations big or small, one-off or regular, are gratefully received - and really help boost children's enjoyment and confidence as readers.
> Find out more about how to donate

‘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

what do the children receive?

Dolly Parton's 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.

inviting families to join

We reach families in a variety of ways:

  • Child health clinic drop-in and Peep groups: We share information via our regular drop-in session at a local child health clinic (Early Explorers), as well as local weekly term-time Peep groups for babies and toddlers
  • Little Peeple Nursery:  We hold termly book events and invite all the nursery families to attend. The children also receive a book every month, so the children see the book in nursery and at home. The nursery 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 - or to check if there already is one near you - have a look on their website:  It really complements our local Peep work and the families love it. We attend the 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.

Feedback from Imagination Library families and practitioners:

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Feedback from the families:

‘Her face lights up each time a book arrives.’  

‘We love reading the books together.’  

‘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’  

‘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.’  

‘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.’  

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!’  

‘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.’  

‘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.’  

‘The parents that come to the children centre talk about the books they have received, they get so excited when a new book arrives.’