Imagination Library takes off in Clayton County


Following the launch of the Clayton County Imagination Library this summer, more than 260 children have signed up to receive monthly books in the mail, and a fundraising campaign is halfway to its goal. 

Launched with an initial gift from an anonymous donor, the Clayton County Foundation for the Future board brought Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to Clayton County to promote early literacy.

"A middle-class child enters first grade with about 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading, compared with an average of just 25 hours for a child from a low-income family,” says Foundation Coordinator Emily Sadewasser, who is managing the new program. “This program will help get Clayton County children off to a bright start with an early love of reading, regardless of socio-economic status.”

The Imagination Library provides one high-quality, age-appropriate book per month to registered children from zero to age five living in districts served by Clayton County schools (Central, Clayton Ridge, Ed-Co, MFL MarMac, Starmont and Postville) at no cost to families. The goals are to:

  • Promote early literacy and language skills, kindergarten readiness, and social-emotional development.
  • Encourage and inspire family engagement as children and their caregivers discover the magic of reading together.

EnrollmentIn August, Sadewasser distributed enrollment forms to community partners like libraries, preschools, medical clinics and child care centers. “Parents began to enroll their children immediately,” she says. “Everyone we talk to is excited about this opportunity.” 

Parents and legal guardians can register or learn more at Click on “check availability” and enter your ZIP code to begin. To request information, email Sadewasser at

Funding: Sadewasser applied for and received two grants to support the Imagination Library. The McDonough Charitable Foundation awarded $13,000 over the summer, and the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation recently announced a $12,000 award. “We are so excited by this early success and grateful to both organizations for their support,” she says. “Strong partnerships are key to all our work.” 

The program has also garnered interest from local individuals, organizations and Foundation donors, bringing a $60,000 fundraising campaign to the halfway mark. The Foundation has committed to raising enough to pay for the first five years of books for Clayton County children, at which point fundraising focus will turn to endowment-building and long-term sustainability. 

To learn more or make a gift to help cover the cost of books for area youth, visit or call 563-588-2700.