Research project funded by U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program provided 35,000 free books to high-needs families with children ages birth to 4; connected families to libraries, literacy resources and activities

St. Louis, MO, July 23, 2015 — Parents as Teachers and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library today released results from a comprehensive research project that shows how markedly a home literacy environment can improve as a result of parent and child engagement enhanced by books and reading when delivered by trained parent educators in group settings. The project, supported by the Department of Education, was conducted by Parents as Teachers, one of the nation’s most respected family support organizations impacting more than 240,000 children annually in all 50 states, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, an innovative book distribution program that provides monthly books to children from birth to age 4.

The purpose of the research was to evaluate the impact on home literacy activities when Parents as Teachers is augmented with the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library book distribution program. The research focused on high-risk families with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program.

Participating families were offered bi-weekly literacy-focused personal visits and monthly literacy related group connections. Children received an Imagination Library book monthly, and Parents as Teachers local affiliates distributed additional books to families on visits and at group connections. Parent educators also connected parents with community libraries and other literacy resources.

Results from the Parents as Teachers Innovative Approaches to Literacy Projectindicated that the literacy-enriched Parents as Teachers personal visits combined with Imagination Library improved the overall literacy environment in homes, including more families reading books together one or more times every day and more children pretending to read books on their own.

“It’s gratifying to see the Parents as Teachers theory of change – which posits that improvements in parent knowledge, attitudes and behaviors are what drive changes in child outcomes – in action within the context of a specific and measurable area of study,” said Kate McGilly, Senior Director of Research and Quality at Parents as Teachers. “The IAL project positively impacted the whole family’s literacy environment.”

“Dolly’s Imagination Library is at its best when the program is coupled with the efforts of Parents as Teachers. This is all about changing behavior in the home so it is wonderful to once again see that our work is inspiring families to read more together,” said Jeff Conyers, the Executive Director of The Dollywood Foundation.

The research project began in March 2013 and included 59 Parents as Teachers programs serving families in nine states including Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, New York and Virginia. Sixty-five percent of participating families had annual household income below $20,000, 81 percent of families received Medicaid, and 70 percent of parents/guardians were unemployed.

The evaluation of the project was conducted by The Center for Early Education Evaluation HighScope Educational Research Foundation, co-led by Tomoko Wakabayashi, EdD and Laura Scharphorn, PhD.

“A major goal of the IAL grant was to increase parent-child literacy activities among parents with children aged birth through 4,” said Dr. Wakabayashi, Director of Research of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. “The results showed marked increases in the number of children’s books in the home, the number of parents who owned library cards, and the frequency of home literacy behaviors including families reading together.”

About Parents as Teachers: Founded in Missouri in 1984, Parents as Teachers serves more than 240,000 children in all 50 U.S. states, more than 100 Tribal organizations, schools and communities, and six other countries. Its internationally recognized network of affiliates uses an evidence-based model to deliver parent education primarily through personal visits and group meetings, equipping parents with knowledge and resources to prepare their children, from birth through kindergarten, for a stronger start in life and greater success in school. Parents as Teachers programs operate in various settings, including schools, hospitals, faith-based organizations and housing communities. For more information, visit

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: Launched in her hometown in Tennessee in 1995, Dolly Parton has led the expansion of her program into four countries and the program now serves over 850,000 children each and every month. Working with local partners in over 2,000 communities, the Imagination Library has placed over 71,000,000 books into the hands of preschool children. For more information, visit

About The HighScope Educational Research Foundation: Beginning with the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, the HighScope Educational Research Foundation revolutionized early childhood education with a comprehensive approach to early learning that supports lifetime benefits for families and children. Founded more than 40 years ago, HighScope is an independent nonprofit research, development, training, publishing, and outreach organization headquartered in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Center for Early Education Evaluation (CEEE) at HighScope has extensive experience promoting and documenting the impact of early childhood programs, contributing to the use of combined data to improve outcomes.

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