CenterPoint Energy Foundation and Hoosiers Read award $250,000 grant to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Monroe County

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, regardless of family income.

All local children ages birth to five are eligible for this FREE book gifting program that mails high-quality, age-appropriate books every month directly to their homes.

In partnership with CenterPoint Energy Foundation and Hoosiers Read, the Community Foundation of Bloomington of Monroe County, along with its Monroe Smart Start program, is excited to announce that Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is coming to Monroe County.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, regardless of family income. Monroe County families with children younger than five years old can enroll in the book program by visiting www.hoosiersread.org. Multiple children can be enrolled in the same household. Each child will receive a free, new book each month up to their fifth birthday.

This effort is being funded through a $1 million grant by the CenterPoint Energy Foundation to expand Hoosiers Read into Madison, Monroe, Vigo, and Vanderburgh Counties. Hoosiers Read was born out of the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation (MDLF). Each year, Mitch Daniels Leadership Fellows pitch influential state leaders on ideas to improve Indiana, and 2019-2020 Fellow Ben Battaglia’s proposal to enhance literacy by mailing free books to young children struck a chord, and Hoosiers Read was formed.

Representatives from the Community Foundation, CenterPoint Energy Foundation, and Hoosiers Read gathered on June 17 for the special announcement at WonderLab Museum’s Science Sprouts Place and Sprouts Lab, a popular exhibit area designed to support learning and exploration for infants, toddlers, and their caregivers.

Community Foundation President and CEO Tina Peterson, Amanda Schmitt, CenterPoint Energy Foundation President, and Ben Battaglia, Founder of Hoosiers Read.

“It is a perfect community match that this exciting announcement event took place in Science Sprouts Place, which was also supported in part by a generous grant from the Community Foundation, said Karen Jepson-Innes, WonderLab’s Executive Director.

“WonderLab believes in the importance of enriched learning experiences from birth, and this includes language development at its very core,” added Jepson-Innes. “In fact, at the very center of Science Sprouts Place is the Reading Nook, with its books and materials that strengthen a young child’s cognitive development and child-caregiver interactions. We were honored to be the site for the kick-off for this exciting new resource for our community!”

Inspired by her father’s inability to read or write, entertainment icon Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1995. The program started as a local effort in Dolly’s home, Sevier County, Tennessee, with the hopes of inspiring a love of reading and learning from a young age. A total of 1,760 books were delivered in the Library’s first order. The program became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort began. What began as a local program grew into an international movement. By 2020, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had distributed 150 million books in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland.

“We couldn’t be more excited about what the grant from the CenterPoint Energy Foundation means for children and families,” said Community Foundation President and CEO Tina Peterson. “What an amazing opportunity for our community’s youngest learners to develop a love for books and reading at an early age.”

“Early learning, literacy, and school readiness have been priorities of the Community Foundation for the past 15 years through our Monroe Smart Start initiative, added Peterson. “We know early learning is critical for school readiness and later success in school and life. We are grateful to CenterPoint Energy Foundation and Hoosiers Read for helping to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Monroe County families, and we look forward to working with them to enroll as many families as possible.”

“CenterPoint Energy is proud to support the expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library into Monroe County,” said Amanda Schmitt, Foundation President. “We believe all children should have access to high-quality, developmentally appropriate literature in their homes. What a wonderful thing this will be for all families in Monroe County.”

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation. It reaches more children than any other early childhood book gifting program by mailing free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth until age five, no matter their family’s income. Learn more at: https://imaginationlibrary.com.

About the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County: Created by individuals, families, and businesses who share a passion for Monroe County and a vision for its future, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County has granted $27 million to local nonprofit organizations since its incorporation in 1990. With a growing $41.1 million endowment, the Foundation makes a difference by connecting caring people, important causes, and community resources. Learn more at www.cfbmc.org.

About Monroe Smart Start:  A leadership initiative of the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, Monroe Smart Start works on behalf of our community’s youngest learners, helping to ensure children are ready for school and ready for life. Since 2009, the Community Foundation has invested more than $1.8 million to support high-quality early learning in Monroe County through advocacy, training, education, parental engagement, and child-centered Monroe Smart Start initiatives. Learn more at www.monroesmartstart.org.

About Hoosiers Read: Hoosiers Read is a nonprofit focused on improving child literacy in Indiana. Began as a project born out of the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation in 2019, Hoosier Reads partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to directly bring books to kids in five Indiana counties, as well as support & grow the program statewide. Learn more at www.hoosiersread.org.

About CenterPoint Energy: As the only investor owned electric and gas utility based in Texas, CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) is an energy delivery company with electric transmission and distribution, power generation, and natural gas distribution operations that serve more than 7 million metered customers in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. As of March 31, 2021, the company owned approximately $36 billion in assets and also owned 53.7 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership that owns, operates, and develops strategically located natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With approximately 9,500 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years.  The CenterPoint Energy Foundation is a charitable giving vehicle focused on strengthening the quality of life in the communities served by CenterPoint Energy.  For more information, visit CenterPointEnergy.com.

About WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology: WonderLab is an award-winning science museum with exhibits and programs for ages birth through adult. WonderLab is located at 308 W. Fourth St. on the B-Line Trail in Bloomington, Indiana. General admission is $10, and children younger than one year are free. Due to Covid-19, the museum is open to the public during limited times. For the most up-to-date information, go to wonderlab.org.