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United Way Early Childhood Literacy

United Way Early Childhood Literacy 

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Free books for kids in Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton, Winchendon, Ayer & Shirley

Sign up your kids from 0-5 years for the United Way Early Childhood Literacy (Dolly Parton Imagination Library)


The Imagination Library Program was started in 1995 by Dolly Parton because she wanted every child birth to five years of age to have his or her own library of books. Dolly understood the importance of exposing children to reading at an early age, so she began sending booksmonth, free of charge, to kids in her county. Thanks to Reading First, which is powered by United Way of North Central Massachusetts, a coalition of businesses and organizations committed to providing resources that improveliteracy in our community — brought the Imagination Library to the families of North Central Massachusetts in November 2012.

Free books monthly for Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Templeton, Winchendon, Ayer & Shirley children

All children from birth to just under five years of age who live in the above towns are eligible to participate in the book program, at no cost to them, regardless of family income. 

  • Books will be sent out to participating children once a month until they reach five years of age. Each book is age appropriate. The collection of books includes such titles as The Little Engine That Could, The Poky Little Puppy, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Favorite Finger Rhymes, Little Cloud, The Owl and The Pussycat, and The Gingerbread Man.

Frequently asked questions:


What are the responsibilities of the parent/guardian?

In addition to residing in the area mentioned above, the responsibilities include submitting an official registration form and notifying United Way anytime there is a change of address. Change of address notification is important because the books are mailed to the address listed on the registration form and cannot be forwarded.

When will the child receive his/her books?

Books will begin arriving at the child's home about eight to ten weeks after the registration form has been received by United Way of North Central Massachusetts. The books will continue to be sent until the child turns five or moves out of the eligible geographical area. If a child does not receive the first book or misses a book one month, parents should first talk to their mail carrier about the issue and then call the United Way of North Central Massachusetts if more help is needed.

Are books available in Spanish?


The Dollywood Foundation selects the book titles each year, and bilingual books are included for everyone in the program based on the availability from their publisher. Most children will receive at least one bilingual book each year they are enrolled. However, even if a parent cannot read English, telling the story by looking at the pictures will increase the child’s vocabulary.

Sounds great, how do I sign up?

Register online here, or download the form and mail it to our office at 649 John Fitch Hwy, Fitchburg, MA 01420.

For further information call the United Way of North Central Massachusetts at 978-345-1577 or send us an email.

What are some other reading resources?

Reading to your children often encourages a love of reading and helps them enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Check out the below resources for more tips on how to engage your children with their free books!

  • Born Learning, the United Way of America's early learning resource site.
  • Thinkfinity, the Verizon Foundation's educational resources.
  • NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children's tips.
  • PBS, the PBS reading and writing tips site.

How can I help?

In addition to our sponsors, listed below, the program is funded in part by donations. If you'd like to sponsor a child for a year, donate $30 today!

To sponsor a child, click here .  

Thank you to our sponsors and partners

We would like to thank the following companies for their support of United Way Early Childhood Literacy, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  These companies have gone above and beyond their annual United Way corporate  giving to make sure that any family with children ages birth to five years old in has the opportunity to receive a free hard cover, age appropriate  book to their home each month until their fifth birthday.