• MLK Community Center

Globally Recognized Early Childhood Literacy Initiative Launches at the MLK Community Center

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Above: David & Carol Bazarsky of the Bazarsky Family Foundation pose with Imagination Library books

Local Family's Generosity Launches Globally Recognized Early Childhood Literacy Initiative at the MLK Community Center

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, presented by the Bazarsky Family Foundation

Dolly Parton’s surprise performance was a highlight of the 2019 Newport Folk Festival. Sadly, the coronavirus crisis has ensured no chance for the legendary entertainer to return this year. But, thanks to the generosity of the Bazarsky Family Foundation (BFF), Dolly Parton’s innovative book-gifting Imagination Library will be in residence for Newport County, at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (MLK).

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) puts books into the hands and hearts of children across the world. They partner with local communities to provide a hand-selected, age-appropriate, high-quality book each month to registered children from birth to age five, completely free of cost. Founded by entertainer Dolly Parton in 1995 and based in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the Imagination Library is a globally recognized non-profit, with programs throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, presented by the Bazarsky Family Foundation, every month young children anywhere in Newport County can receive a book of their very own for their first five years. “Our goal is to mail books every month to as many children as possible. Census data tells us there are over 3,500 children aged 5 and under in Newport County. We hope to enroll 100% over the course of three years. We’ve committed to fully funding the Imagination Library at the MLK Community Center,” says Carol Bazarsky, co-founding trustee of the BFF.

“As a former educator, I can speak to the importance of books and reading for all children, especially the very young. Just having books in the home increases literary rates. The BFF’s amazing gift levels the playing field: every child who lives in Newport County is eligible,” says Heather Hole Strout, the Center’s Executive Director. “I’m especially happy that two books each year are in both Spanish and English,” she added.

Starting the program is a “passion,” says Bazarsky. “David and I wanted to fund a literacy program for many years,” she says. “Literacy is critically important for our community’s kids. If children aren’t reading well by grade 3, they often never catch up. I wasn’t sure how to get the program out into the community and then I had a 3:00 a.m. epiphany when I thought of the MLK and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.”

The Foundation has a long history with the Center, completely renovating the MLK’s After School and Summer Camp education spaces, creating high-tech yet warm and welcoming spaces designed to enhance learning. The Bazarsky Family Foundation’s mission is to enhance education on Aquidneck Island, with a vision of partnering with organizations like the MLK Community Center to provide all local children with the tools necessary to grow and prosper into young adults.

Imagination Libraries across the globe are community funded. “It’s incredible that a private foundation like the Bazarsky Family’s is launching and sustaining this at the MLK,” says Hole Strout. “This program won’t cost families, the Center, or local school districts a single penny. The Bazarsky Family Foundation is truly changing lives with this transformational gift.”

Regardless of household income, any Newport County child from birth to their 5th birthday can be enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, presented by the Bazarsky Family Foundation. Children who live in Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton, or Jamestown are eligible. “This isn’t about how much money a family earns, or doesn’t earn, or about what their native language is. It’s about mailing a high-quality book of their very own every month to kids across Newport County,” says Bazarsky.

Parents & guardians: to sign up your child to receive a free, age-appropriate book in the mail each month, visit the Imagination Library website. It will walk you through registration to ensure your child's privacy.

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Founded in 1922 and renamed after Dr. King in 1968, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center is a multi-service provider for at-risk and underserved individuals, families and children in Newport County, Rhode Island. An independent non-profit, the mission of the MLK Community Center is to nourish, educate, and support Newport County residents to improve their economic and social well-being.

20 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd, Newport RI 02840;

Phone: (401) 846-4828; Fax: (401)848-7360;

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library:

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has mailed well over 100 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.4 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

For more information, please visit

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