Spotlight on Putnam County Imagination Library & Governor's Books From Birth

Last Updated by Kate Spears on

Did you have a favorite book when you were growing up? This week on WCTE’s Get Ready To Learn radio show, host Cindy Putman and co-host Paulette Witt, retired educator, entrepreneur and preschool founder and director, will discuss the importance of placing books in the hands of children, parents or caring, consistent adults in a child’s life.  

Decades of scientific research into literacy development have shown that having books in the home helps children obtain reading skills. Putman and Witt discussed the role that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has had in Putnam County.

In 1996, in Parton’s home county of Sevier County, Tennessee, Imagination Library was born and it has grown nationally as well as internationally. Dolly's vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is designed to help families create home libraries, establish reading routines and encourage literacy activities. Paulette Witt, who serves on the Executive Board of the Putnam County Imagination Library, said that without the support of former County Executive Kim Blaylock and former Cookeville City Manager Jim Shipley, this program would not have existed.

Diane Duncan, JoAnne White, Kim Decker, Paulette Witt and Barbara Wilhite have worked tirelessly to insure that families are aware of the procedure in place to register children from birth to five years old for this program.

The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and statewide county affiliate programs, have built a foundation for reading and learning through books for all of Tennessee’s children.

All children from birth to age five are eligible to receive books at no cost to the families. The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation raises fifty percent of funds for books and mailing. Each local affiliate raises an additional fifty percent of the funds for books and mailings, enrolls children and promotes the local program.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library manages the selection, pricing and distribution of books. This is a dynamic public and private partnership unlike any other in the U.S. today. The books are mailed monthly to the homes of each child registered for the program.

Witt encouraged parents to fill out a change of address card if they move to a different location. This insures that the children always receive their books. 2,971 books were mailed to children in Putnam County during January 2017.  

If you want to support your Imagination Library through a donation, it’s easy to do. Please visit the Cookeville Regional Charitable Foundation at Find the donate now button and click. Then scroll down and find the Putnam County Imagination Library link and click.

Did you know that $12 provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to one child for a full year? $24 provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to two children for a full year. $60 provides the full library, 60 books, to one child over five years! Please consider a donation of any amount so children can receive these wonderful books.  

Did you know the Urban Child Institute (2012) Kindergarten Readiness Study states that children enrolled in the Imagination Library Program have reading readiness scores eight points higher than non-participants?

Witt said the first book a child receives is The Little Engine that Could, which is selected by Dolly Parton since it was her favorite book. The final book the children receive is called Kindergarten, Here I Come. Since 2010, in Putnam County, 214,969 books have been delivered to the 2,984 children enrolled in the Imagination Library.  

To enroll your child in the program, visit or call 1-877-99-BOOKS.  

To find out more about Putnam County’s Imagination Library, contact Diane Duncan, at 


Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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WCTE’s Educational Team can customize workshops or professional development trainings for your group or organization. For workshop information, or to inquire about scheduling a workshop, call 921-528-2222 x. 227 or email us.

Topics are listed below:

  • Using Media as a learning tool
  • Using PBS kids apps to extend learning
  • How to be your child’s first teacher
  • Sesame Street Workshops
  • How does poverty effect a child’s brain
  • Literacy and Math
  • Brain Development

Workshops can be conducted in English and Spanish.