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Pritzker kicks off Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library expansion in Bloomington visit

A new program in Illinois allows every child under age 5 to get a free book every month in the mail through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced the statewide launch of the program during a visit Tuesday to the Bloomington Public Library.

"Nearly 30 years ago, Dolly Parton started giving away free books to children in her home county of Sevierville, Tennessee. Now her Imagination Library sends more than 2 million free books every month to children across the world," said Pritzker.

Book stand inside a library that contains several children's books and a sign above with "Read" inscribed above.
Emily Bollinger
Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995. It mails more than 2.8 million books directly to children’s homes each month.

Jeanne Hamilton, Bloomington Public Library executive director, indicated her nephews live in Parton’s home state of Tennessee and recently graduated from the Imagination program.

“Children develop 60% of their lifetime vocabulary in their first five years, and picture books expand that vocabulary with three times the number of rare words than heard in daily conversation,” Hamilton said.

Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 1995. It mails more than 2.8 million books directly to children’s homes each month.

Pritzker noted the program previously served about 4% of the state’s early childhood population through various community organizations before the state enabled an expansion by giving $1.6 million to the program.

“It’s time we made books available to children everywhere in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

Parents can register their children through their local library or other participating organizations.

Electric vehicle production

During Pritzker’s visit to Bloomington, he said Illinois has many more electric vehicle business opportunities on top of the recent wins with Stellantis and a battery plant in Manteno being built by Gotion.

"I can tell you we have literally a dozen more that are in the category of electric vehicles along with a dozen more on top of that in other categories," said Pritzker.

Man speaking behind a podium with a seal in front that reads "Seal of the state of Illinois'
Emily Bollinger
Gov. JB Pritzker kicked off a statewide launch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library on Tuesday during a visit to the Bloomington Public Library.

Pritzker gave credit to the General Assembly for approving creation of closing funds and other incentives.

"These kinds of incentives really are effective. And, just to be clear to everybody, it’s not like we need to do something that other states don’t need to do. We’re just becoming competitive for the first time with other states," said Pritzker.

Pritzker said he wants Illinois to be best in the nation in electric vehicle production, but does not want to spend taxpayer dollars attracting companies if the state doesn't need to do that to be competitive.

Pritzker said state incentives are making Illinois competitive with other states and able to land $8 billion in investment and 10,000 jobs.
And, Pritzker noted, he owns a Rivian vehicle made in Normal.

Emily Bollinger contributed to this story.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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