Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) announced that their bipartisan legislation in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to establish California’s first Statewide Imagination Library Program unanimously passed the Senate Floor today and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
SB 1183, which would establish the statewide program under the direction of the State Librarian, is the first time Senators Atkins and Grove have coauthored legislation. The program would establish a comprehensive initiative for encouraging preschool children to develop a love of reading and learning. The bill has maintained unanimous bipartisan support in both houses.
“The magical part about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is that it gives our youngest children access to books that can ignite their imagination and pave a brighter future,” said Senator Grove. “A child’s learning journey starts at birth and grows leaps and bounds in their first five years, this reading program will touch their lives in the most formative years. I am beyond grateful for Dolly Parton’s heart to get millions of books to millions of children and for the Senate Pro Tem’s partnership and desire to invest in the education of California children.”
The statewide Imagination Library program will focus on gifting monthly, free, age-appropriate books to California’s early readers, from birth until age five, through a direct mail program. Research shows that early reading offers numerous benefits for childhood development in the first five years of life, by inspiring the love of books and reading. Getting children excited about owning books and inspiring shared family reading helps build language, memory skills and sparks a child’s imagination. Young children who are exposed to a variety of books and reading early on perform at higher levels in school.
“Growing up, my family had a very tight budget, but my parents taught me that I could travel anywhere in the world and have all sorts of new experiences with one swipe of my library card,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “That deep appreciation of reading is one of the greatest gifts they gave me. I hope to carry on their legacy by bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to California and ensuring that our youngest readers can add to their home library every month, regardless of how much their parents make or where they live. Dolly said it best when she said, ‘You can never get enough books into the hands of enough children.’ Amen to that!”
Currently, 1 percent of California children age 0-5 are enrolled. SB 1183, would create a statewide program that will open eligibility up to 2.4 million early learners in California. The 2022-23 state budget also included $68.2 million in one-time funding to cover the estimated cost of operating the program for 5 years under the administration of the State Librarian. A report will be prepared by the State Library for the legislature to review by January 1, 2028, which will allow future representatives to provide oversight and review the success of the reading program.
Since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has delivered more than 186 million books to children in thousands of communities worldwide. Existing local programs in California have seen rising interest and success for this program, especially in rural and hard-to-reach communities where libraries and books are more difficult to access. This bill intends to foster a love of reading in California’s communities by providing more books to early readers and families.
If signed by the Governor, SB 1183 will become effective immediately.