(Shreveport, LA) – United Way of Northwest Louisiana opened registration to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Benton, Louisiana, with the aid of Benton resident, Jenna Bagley. Bagley volunteered to assist with raising over $26,000 to ensure the program would be available in Benton for the next five years.

This early childhood literacy program fosters a love of reading for children from birth to age five and helps prepare them for kindergarten success. Local data demonstrates that only 52 percent of Northwest Louisiana children enter kindergarten prepared. Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, one book is delivered directly to children’s homes each month. If a child is enrolled in the program at birth, they will own a library of 60 books by the time they enter Kindergarten, all at zero cost to the child’s family.

“My son was born with severe hearing loss. One of his speech therapists suggested that I enroll him in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to get him really excited about me reading to him and help develop his vocabulary,” said Bagley. “I looked up the program and found that it wasn’t yet offered where I live, so I partnered with United Way of Northwest Louisiana, and we raised the funds to make it happen!”

Last year, United Way provided over 46,000 books to nearly 4,300 children. “Our goal is to raise enough funds to provide these books to every child in Northwest Louisiana. It is through our continued corporate support from companies such as AEP- SWEPCO/AEP Foundation and individuals like Ms. Bagley, I believe we can get there,” LaToria Thomas, VP of Community Investments and Operations. At the cost of $30 per year for each child currently residing in Northwest Louisiana, United Way would need to raise approximately $1.1Million to provide this program to every child in the area.

“There are countless proven benefits to having books in the home, and I wanted to make sure that every kid in my community has the opportunity to develop a love of reading. Thank you so much to all who donated to make this possible – you have truly given an incredible gift to our kids!” said Bagley.

To learn more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, register for the program, or make a contribution, visit www.unitedwaynwla.org/dpil.