Developing a love of reading in the early years is vital for children and will support them enormously to develop their speech and language skills. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is one reading initiative that supports parents to make this happen and is growing in the city, thanks to Read Manchester and three local organisations.

Dolly Parton was inspired to create The Imagination Library by her father who had never learned to read. She recognised that he may have had more life opportunities available to him had he been able to. The Imagination Library was originally set up for Dolly’s local community but is now established in towns and cities all over the world.

Through the Imagination Library, every child under 5 in participating families is posted a quality, age appropriate book every month. The scheme promotes early reading and literacy skills and offers parents and children a great chance to spend time together sharing books.

Two organisations that have benefitted from Read Manchester support and seed funding are Home-Start Manchester and the Gorton Imagination Library. The Library at HMP Manchester also sign up a small number of families to the scheme.

Home-Start is a family support charity whose home-visiting volunteers are ideally placed to model story sharing to the families they work with. Since Home-Start began signing families up 18 months ago, they have gifted over 800 books to children. Here’s what one of their parents said:

‘Aniya’s eyes light up when her little parcel is posted through the letterbox. It is addressed to her personally and she loves the anticipation of opening it. We definitely read more together since signing up.’

The Imagination Library has been particularly important this year as it has been able to operate throughout lockdown periods. Gorton Imagination Library is also expanding further to more families in the Gorton / Clayton areas. Local parents are invited to join via the Children’s Centres in the participating areas.