Research Summary on How Imagination Library Supports Family Literacy

Forty-one independent studies have shown that Imagination Library is having a significant and positive impact on family literacy habits, kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading on grade level.

Here in Cuyahoga County: 747 families who have been receiving Imagination Library books for more than six months responded to a September 2019 survey. More than half of the parents responding have a child that is under age 3 years.

  • 73% of the respondents said they read to their children more often since they began receiving Imagination Library books. In zip codes with higher poverty (>30%) the response is 84%.
  • 70% of parents said their children have been asking to be read to more often since starting the Imagination Library program. 81% in higher poverty zip codes.
  • 91% of families believe participation in Imagination Library is helping their child better prepared for Kindergarten. 94% in higher poverty zip codes.
  • 76% of respondents in higher poverty zip codes report that Imagination Library books make up more than half of their home library.
  • One-third of respondents said they have used their public library more often.

Based on Imagination Library Research Findings and Literature Review:

  • Richer home literacy environment
    • Parents read aloud more to their children and were more comfortable reading as a result of DPIL
    • Parents reported their children owned more books as a result of participating in the program
  • Positive attitudes about reading and motivation to read among caregivers and children during book reading
    • Participating family members were overwhelmingly positive about the program and its impact on their children when asked in questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups.
    • Community members, including Imagination Library partners and preschool and kindergarten teachers, also had positive views of the program and its impact on book ownership and literacy practices in homes
    • The positive view of the program and its impacts were present regardless of the demographic characteristics of the community or its participants, and longer program participation often resulted in more positive outcomes
  • Increased interactions between caregivers and children in book reading
    • Parents believed their children were more interested in reading due to receiving the books each month
    • Participating children were excited when their DPIL books arrived in the mail monthly, addressed specifically to the child
    • Some studies found DPIL had promise with respect to developing children’s early literacy skills, as participants had more advanced skills than their classmates who did not participate in the program.
    • One study found better attendance and fewer school suspensions for children who had been enrolled in the Imagination Library program.
    • Specific research in Syracuse, NY “Is participation in the DPIL associated with higher levels of kindergarten readiness”: For those consistently enrolled in the program (3-4 years), there was a 28.9% increase in children ready for kindergarten, according to the AIMSweb LNF (Letter Naming Fluency) (Letter Naming Fluency – identified frequently as the best single indicator of risk for reading failure (Elliot, Lee & Tollefson 2001, Hintze, Ryan, & Stoner 2003).

Why is the information cited above important?

  • Access to books is key to reading skills. Studies confirm that the number of books in the home directly predicts reading achievement.  Children who grew up with books in their homes reached a higher level of education than those who did not. (Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success)
  • The single most important factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home before starting school. (National Commission on Reading)
  • In middle income neighborhoods, the ratio is 13 books per child; in low income neighborhoods, the ratio is one book for every 300 children. (Neuman, Susan B and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbooks of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006)
  • Storybook reading has been shown to have a powerful effect upon young children’s literacy knowledge and subsequent achievement of measures of early literacy skills/strategies (e.g., Neuman, 1996; Paratore & Edwards, 2011)
  • Concepts about print (including print knowledge and visually processing) and letter knowledge (including alphabetic recognition) were shown as two key variables predictive of later literacy achievement for early literacy learners (e.g., National Early Literacy Panel, 2009; Teale & Sulzby, 1986)
  • 60% of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book. (Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading, D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein)
  • Reading aloud to children at a young age can positively impact their brain development: When preschool children listen to stories, it activates the areas of their brains that are associated with processing images and narrative comprehension. (Pediatrics – Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. (PEER method, CROWD prompts.) (Dialogic Reading: An Effective Way to Read to Preschoolers by Grover J. Whitehurst).

Resources For Families

Imagination Library Frequently Asked Questions

The Literacy Cooperative currently manages the program and accepts enrollment forms for Cuyahoga County and Wickliffe.

When will a child receive his/her first book?

It generally takes 6-11 weeks from the time of enrollment until the first book is received. For example, if a child is enrolled in February, they will likely receive their first book in April.

When do the books arrive each month?

The books generally arrive the third week of the month. Occasionally they will arrive sooner, and during holiday seasons, there may be expected delays. Please remember that they can arrive at any time of the month – even right up to the last day.

In a family with multiple children receiving books, will each child receive their book on the same day?

Books will arrive at slightly different times due to varying sizes and weights. We encourage each family to utilize this as an opportunity to create and share in the excitement for each sibling the day their book arrives and have additional chances to be enthused about the arrival of the books. All children receive the same welcome book as the first book and the same last “graduation” book upon their 5th birthday.

What if a family moves?

Each book has a label that says “Moving? Call 216-776-6180.” Families should update their address with both The Literacy Cooperative and USPS. The Imagination Library checks its database against the USPS National Change of Address database monthly, to keep its information as up-to-date and accurate as possible. If a family is moving from one Imagination Library community to another, we will update the information as soon as possible. If there is a program in their new community, we can transfer them into it. Since books are shipped at bulk mail rate, they are not forwarded.

What if a child doesn’t receive a book or I have other questions?

Contact Imagination Library Director, Joan Spoerl at or 217-776-6186.

Resources For Partners

Enrollment Reminders!

Please remember to enroll only children age 4 ½ years old and younger (due to processing delays and last book arriving on their 5th birthday)! We need: child’s name, date of birth, address, parent name & signature, and ideally, both email & phone number (all legible please). Questions? Please call or email Joan Spoerl at 216-776-6186 and

Online enrollment also available at

The Literacy Cooperative manages the program and accepts enrollment forms for residents of Cuyahoga County and Wickliffe.

How It Works

  • Identify an Imagination Library Champion for your site
  • Encourage parents to complete a registration form upon receiving it onsite & turn back to staff immediately upon completion; we find it’s best if they do this onsite vs. sending the form home and hoping it returns
  • Collect and review forms for completeness, legibility, and eligibility (child’s name, date of birth, parent name and address, parent initial or signature, phone number, and if possible, email address)!
  • Ideally, IL Champion mails forms by the 15th of the month to ensure children are entered into the system for the following month’s processing. If you would like mailing labels provided by The Literacy Cooperative, please request them from your Imagination Library contact listed below. Mailing address:

Imagination Library

c/o The Literacy Cooperative
1422 Euclid Avenue, Suite 248
Cleveland OH 44115

Imagination Library Online Enrollment Instructions for Partner Organizations

Note: The family needs to consent to enrollment with your assistance and have an email address for online enrollment. If they don’t have one, then we recommend you fill out a paper form for them (again, with their permission) and initial it on the signature line if you’re collecting the information and permission over the phone. You can mail in the paper forms as usual to: Imagination Library c/o The Literacy Cooperative 1422 Euclid Avenue, Suite 248 Cleveland, OH 44115.

Online enrollment steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “enroll.”
  3. If family is willing, sign up for communications from OGIL and fill in requested information. Otherwise, scroll down and click on “click here to continue directly to enrollment.”
  4. Check “agree to terms of service.”

Now actual enrollment process begins as you go to the following sections.

  1. Click “check availability” and fill in the pertinent information.
  2. Click “check eligibility” and fill in the pertinent information.
  3. This should complete the process with a confirmation message that looks something like this and will either reference the Heights Family Foundation or The Literacy Cooperative, depending upon where the child lives.
    You have successfully completed our online registration process.

What’s next?

  1. Check your email! Within the next few minutes, you will receive your account information which will allow you to login and check your child’s registration status.
  2. Once your child’s registration application has been reviewed, you will be notified via email informing you if your child has been approved or if perhaps their application was denied (along with a reason for denial).
  3. If you receive a notification informing you that your child’s registration has been approved, please allow up to 90 days to begin receiving books.

Thanks to Heights Family Foundation for bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the children in your community!

Dream More, Learn More, Care More, Be More!

Visit Heights Family Foundation