United Way of the Plains announces one millionth book milestone for the local Imagination Library

WICHITA, Kan., Jan. 18, 2023 — The world celebrates the birthday of the legendary musician and philanthropist, Dolly Parton, tomorrow on January 19. One of Dolly Parton’s international legacy programs is the Imagination Library, which she established to inspire a love of reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth to age five. Founded in 1995, the initiative promotes school readiness in five countries (the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Republic of Ireland).

In partnership with United Way of the Plains, the Imagination Library program was launched locally in 2011 and has just reached an important milestone in south central Kansas with the delivery of the millionth book. To provide this program at no cost to the children who qualify, United Way of the Plains contributes nearly $300,000 annually to cover postage and administration expenses.

The initiative is available in select ZIP codes with the greatest need in three counties: Sedgwick, Butler and Sumner. Last year, 11,427 children from these counties were enrolled. Parents can check their family’s eligibility on the Imagination Library site. The ZIP codes that qualify for the program and the number of local enrollments depend on the generosity of local donors. A $25 gift sponsors one child for a full year. The program has flourished over the past 12 years thanks to many individual donors, foundation grants and corporate sponsorships. Continued community support will ensure the program builds strong readers for another generation. Check the United Way of the Plains website for information about how to enroll.

According to the National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.” Heather Crump is the Impact Manager for Education at United Way of the Plains. She oversees the program for south central Kansas and as a former educator has personally witnessed the results of helping children build their own library of books. “Literacy is the foundation of success. We’d love to expand the reach of the program to more ZIP codes and increase the number of area children who are set up for success in schools. Entering kindergarten with their own personal library of 60 books at home offers these children a significant advantage. Thanks to the caring power of our community, I am excited to see what the next million books will do for enhancing the literacy of our children.

Information about how to make a personal or corporate donation can be found on the United Way of the Plains website.



Download a copy of the video here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Angie Prather, Vice President of Marketing and Chief Community Engagement Officer, (316) 267-1321, aprather@unitedwayplains.org

United Way of the Plains is a nonprofit and for-impact organization that focuses on healtheducation, financial stability and basic needs – the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Our mission is to improve lives by harnessing the caring power of our community to advance the common good in south central Kansas. Follow us on these social media channels: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn and TikTok.


Published On: January 18, 2023


Our focus is on healtheducationfinancial stability and basic needs—the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Click below to learn more about what we’re doing, the programs we invest in and our lasting impact in each area.