Founded by the legendary country singer in 1995 in her home county of Sevier, Tennessee, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library spread steadily and was launched in Siskiyou County three years ago.

Every month, Siskiyou County children up to age 5 can have a new, age appropriate book delivered right to their family’s mailbox. By their fifth birthday, those who have been signed up with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library since birth will have compiled their own library of 60 books.

Founded by the legendary country singer in 1995 in her home county of Sevier, Tennessee, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library spread steadily and was launched in Siskiyou County three years ago.

A Mount Shasta High School senior at the time, Katarina Pautz wanted to start the program in Mount Shasta as her senior project. Her idea was deemed too extensive for a senior project, so Pautz moved on to a more manageable task. But because she was so enraptured by the idea, Pautz presented it to the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma – Gamma Nu – which is a group of professional women educators.

“It lit us on fire,” said Gamma Nu’s Cathie Lynch. “We took it and ran with it.”

To make the Imagination Library happen in Siskiyou County, Gamma Nu members became “the boots on the ground, registering children and raising funds,” said Glee Brooks, who is the key point of contact for Siskiyou County’s Imagination Library program. They also enlisted the sponsorship of First 5 Siskiyou for help with technical aspects. As their fiscal partner, Gamma Nu found the 501c3 Siskiyou County Resource Collaborative. Not only does SCRC handle the writing of checks and filing of necessary reports, the resource centers help get the word out and are a point of contact for Siskiyou County families with children who would benefit.

Through these partnerships, children in all 22 of Siskiyou County’s zipcodes are eligible for the program, Lynch explained, which is quite the feat considering that most program affiliates only handle one or two zipcodes.

Although the program is absolutely free for families, it does require local funding to stay afloat, said Lynch. Local programs cover the cost of the books, while Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides the framework and covers mailing costs and the overhead expenses to run the program.

A year of books for a child costs $25, said Lynch, and Gamma Nu is constantly looking for donors and local businesses that would be interested in keeping the program running, although the First 5 Commission has pledged to backfill if there is ever a funding shortfall.

Currently, there are 1,547 Siskiyou County children enrolled in the program, and there are approximately 2,500 children ages 0-5 who are eligible, said Brooks. Gamma Nu’s goal is to sign up every eligible child in the county to give them precious literacy skills before entering kindergarten.

November’s Giving Tuesday event netted nearly $5,000 toward their ongoing fundraising effort, Brooks said. So far, their biggest sponsors have been the Rotary Clubs of Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir, the Lions Club of Yreka, the Mount Shasta Five Star Kiwanis, Friends of the Library in Yreka and Fort Jones, First 5 Siskiyou, Dr. Duane Brooks, Pepsi, Raven Tree and the Sheriff Lopey Foundation.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey has been a big supporter of the Imagination Library, Brooks explained, because studies have shown that children who do well in reading and school are less likely to enter the criminal justice system in their futures.

About Imagination Library

Parton founded the program in honor of her father, who was unable to read or write, with the goal to “put more books in the hands of more children.”

Today, more than 100 million books have been mailed to children around the world.

When children enroll, the first book they’ll receive is “The Little Engine That Could.” After that, the books are age appropriate, starting with board books. The month a child turns 5, they will receive “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!”

Brooks explained that the book titles change periodically to keep the program fresh. Families with two or more age-eligible children will receive a book every month addressed specifically to each child, and if they are different ages, they’ll be receiving different books.

“I think that it’s great that the project is doing so well and I’m really excited to see even more families sign up in the future,” said Katarina, whose vision got the local Imagination Library ball rolling. “I’m so happy with how it has turned out.”

April 6 celebration

and fundraiser

A celebration of the Imagination Library’s third anniversary in Siskiyou County will be held at the Best Western Tree House in Mount Shasta on April 6 at 11:45 a.m.

A presentation will be given about the program’s success as well as how they’ll be moving forward in the upcoming year.

To attend, RSVP to Brooks by Monday, April 1 at (530) 926-4766 or by emailing Lunch is $20 with three choices – the Tree House Burger, BLT & A, or soup, salad and bread (this includes tax and tip).

Speakers will include Supervisor Michael Kobseff and Mount Shasta Union School District Superintendent Barry Barnhart, as well as other local dignitaries and supporters of the program.

How to enroll

Siskiyou County parents may enroll their children online at or by mail by calling First 5 Siskiyou at (530) 918-7222. Once children begin receiving their books, Lynch said the next important step is getting someone to read them for the children.

Lynch pointed to research that shows children who are read to 15 minutes a day have advanced literacy skills upon entering kindergarten and this benefit lasts through their third grade year.

Lynch pointed out that the Imagination Library will never sell contact information and the program is completely free for families, so there should be no concerns in signing up.

If a family moves after they are signed up, parents must be sure to change their address with the program, because the books can’t be forwarded. In addition, be sure to call First 5 if there are any glitches so children are sure to receive their books.