In 2017, the James and Shirley Rippey Family Foundation wanted to support early literacy efforts in rural Oregon. So it announced that the foundation would pay half the cost of books for three years for programs affiliated with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 24 rural counties — Baker, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Tillamook, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco and Wheeler. As a result of the Rippey Foundation’s efforts, preschool children in 23 of those 24 counties, plus children in the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, now receive books through the Imagination Library.
Overall, there are now 42 Imagination Library programs in Oregon, covering nearly three-quarters of the state.
A bill will be introduced in the 2019 legislative session to further expand the Imagination Library in Oregon with state funding support. The bill would provide:
- State matching funds (50/50) for local Imagination Library programs.
- Organizational support from the Early Learning Division to help start Imagination Library programs in communities that don’t have it.
- Technical assistance for enrollment outreach and local fundraising to support and expand Oregon’s Imagination Library programs.
Other states, including Tennessee and North Carolina, have similar statewide matching funds for local Imagination Library programs. Alaska’s Imagination Library program is almost statewide. In addition to Oregon, Arkansas, North Dakota, New Mexico and other states are trying to develop statewide Imagination Library programs.
Our hope in Eugene is that with state financial support, we will be able to dramatically increase the number of children in Eugene receiving Imagination Library books from the current 4,000 to 5,000 or more.