Imagination Library Mails Free Books to Kids

Published on Tuesday, August 8, 2023 in Community

Did you know Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails free age-appropriate books to kids every month until they’re five years old? The singer/songwriter started the program in 1995 in her home county of East Tennessee, inspired by her own father’s inability to read or write. Since then, community affiliates in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland have worked with the program to enroll more than 2.5 million kids of all income levels, with more than 211 million books gifted.

A Huge Benefit for Local Kids

In southern Michigan, we have two such affiliates: the United Way of Southwest Michigan, and the Lenawee Community Foundation. They’ve been working since 2009 and 2010 respectively to enroll local kids and ship them their books at no cost to the family. Both groups say the program is a crucial part of setting local kids up for success.

“Literacy is one of the most important skills necessary for a bright future,” says Bronna Kahle, president and CEO of Lenawee Community Foundation. “The ability to read and write is imperative for success in school and all of life.”

Literacy is one of the most important skills for children to develop, and studies show the most important development in a human’s life happens between zero and three years of age, according to the United Way of Southwest Michigan. Children who have books at home are much more likely to have a wider vocabulary and better attention span, and they’re more proficient readers by third grade – which is when students transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. According to the United Way of Southwest Michigan, 60% of students they serve through Imagination Library (Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties) are not meeting third-grade reading standards.

MEC Supports Childhood Literacy

At MEC, we’re passionate about making sure our kids have the tools they need to succeed in life – that’s why we’re supporting our local Imagination Library affiliates, United Way of Southwest Michigan and the Lenawee Community Foundation. In southwest Michigan, we awarded United Way with a BVC grant, as well as a CoBank Sharing Success grant (CoBank’s Sharing Success program matches charitable donations made by their customers, of which MEC is one).  In southeast Michigan, we used partnership dollars from our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, to donate to the Lenawee Community Foundation, as well as another CoBank Sharing Success grant.

Sign Your Kids Up – It's Free!

Want to sign your little one up for free books? Visit for southwest Michigan. For southeast Michigan, contact the Lenawee Community Foundation at 517-263-4696 or, or stop into their office at 1440 W. Maumee Street in Adrian. Because the program is entirely funded by donations like those from MEC, there is no cost to the family and eligibility is not based on income level.

If you don’t have kids, but would still like to donate to a great cause, both United Way and LCF allow you to “sponsor” a child that’s not related to you. Contact United Way or LCF using the methods above to get started – for United Way the cost per child is $25 per year, while LCF’s cost is a little higher at $30 per year.

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sign up - southwest mi

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