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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #23-47
June 6, 2023
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Partners on Expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Building on Thurmond’s Reading by Third Grade Initiative

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that the California Department of Education is partnering with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world and the flagship program of the Dollywood Foundation. The effort supports Superintendent Thurmond’s Statewide Literacy Campaign to help all California students reach the goal of literacy by third grade by the year 2026.

State Superintendent Thurmond is proudly working with the Governor, the State Librarian, and First Five California to support the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gifts free, high-quality, age-appropriate books monthly to children from birth to age five regardless of family income. This program is free to enrolled children and families and will soon be available to more children in California.

“California students are even better positioned to access the best resources to support literacy and biliteracy. Fostering interest in books and reading at the youngest ages is among the best gifts we can give our children,” said Thurmond. “Creating a reading routine as a family sets children on the right course by providing a nurturing experience that improves learning and development. This opportunity is a win for children, families, and communities. We hope that community partners will join us to broaden the reach and participation.”

The Imagination Library’s expansion was driven by legislation signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Under the bipartisan bill—by Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, and Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat—the California State Library coordinates the program and provides a dollar-for-dollar match to help Imagination Library local program partners sign up children to receive the free, high-quality books each month.

California is leading the nation as the first state to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to offer a fully bilingual English/Spanish book option. Currently, the Imagination Library is available in areas across 30 counties in California with expansion plans to fully cover the entire state. Families can enroll a child, view if a program is already in their local area, or sign up to be notified when a program comes to their community by visiting the Imagination Library website External link opens in new window or tab..

The Imagination Library of California expansion is seeking community partners to start new Imagination Library programs in California. A community partner must be a 501(c)(3) organization or a school district. To learn more about becoming a local program partner, contact Rachel King at

To learn more about the expansion of the program in California, visit the California State Library website External link opens in new window or tab..

Since taking office as State Superintendent in 2019, Thurmond has made literacy a top priority. In May 2022, Thurmond hosted a meeting for more than 550 school leaders from California school districts and charters and called on schools to take a pledge to commit to helping reach the third-grade literacy and biliteracy goal by 2026. That year, he also sponsored a series of bills to expand literacy programs and literacy interventions and fund more dual-language immersion schools and strongly advocated to fund reading coaches and specialists for our schools. In order to advance his reading by third grade goal, Thurmond promised to secure one million book donations for students in need; through a partnership with Renaissance Learning, Inc., students downloaded more than five million free online books as part of the literacy efforts. Thurmond has also pledged to help secure passage of resources in the proposed state budget and legislation as well as to work with community libraries to expand student library memberships and access as part of the strategy to promote literacy in the state.

For more information about Thurmond’s literacy campaign, email

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, June 7, 2023
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