Imagination Library looks for new local partner after United Way Dane County discontinues program

For about 5,000 kids in Dane County, December will be the last month they receive books from Dolly Parton’s reading program.

The United Way of Dane County has decided not to continue its partnership with the national foundation.

“With an operating cost of about $200,000 per year, United Way staff and volunteers had to make the difficult decision to discontinue this program to focus on making other existing early childhood programs even more efficient and effective,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement to News 3 Now.

The spokesperson said United Way Dane County has been working with The Dollywood Foundation since the summer to find a new home for the program in Dane County and has kept a list of all families as well as those interested in signing up.

United Way Dane County let the affected families know of other programs they can look to while The Dollywood Foundation finds a new partner, including Reach Out and Read Wisconsin and the Madison Reading Project.

Karin Mahony, the project manager for Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, said she doesn’t anticipate this move will create more need from her nonprofit, since the program typically works directly with clinics and doctors to help them encourage parents to read with their kids.

“There’s now a whole body of evidence with baby brain research where we know how important it is to stimulate infants’ brain development starting at birth,” Mahony said. “Reading is the easiest way for parents to do that with their children.”

On top of taking advantage of the programs in the county, she encouraged parents and kids to go to local libraries to fill up on books.

Families with questions have been directed to contact Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Regional Director, Pam Hunsaker at or visit the program website.

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