Dolly’s Library sees 45% enrollment one year after coming to Isle of Wight

Published 4:23 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

It’s been just over a year since singer-songwriter Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library expanded into Isle of Wight County.

In that time, the program has seen nearly half of all eligible children in the county enroll to receive one free, age-appropriate book each month by mail from birth through age 5.

“We currently have approximately 550 children in Isle of Wight County enrolled, which is about 45% of eligible children,” said Kyle DeGood, founder of the 2017-created DeGood Foundation, a nonprofit whose purpose is to provide Hampton Roads children with equitable access to positive early childhood experiences.

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Smithfield’s anchor employer, Smithfield Foods, provided startup funding through the DeGood Foundation to bring Parton’s library to Isle of Wight.

As of April 17, 7,183 books had been mailed to enrolled Isle of Wight children, DeGood said.

“Our great friends at Smithfield Foods have made great things possible with their support of the program in Isle of Wight,” DeGood said. “As enrollment continues to grow, we are seeking additional support from the community to continue to keep the program running and allowing new families to enroll. Isle of Wight’s program grew extremely quickly, getting almost half of the children in the community enrolled in less than a year — a process that typically takes three years, at least.”

On March 26, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed House Bill 1075, which establishes Parton’s library statewide. The bill, which passed the House of Delegates 92-3 in February and passed the Senate unanimously in March, requires the statewide program to contribute to local programs at a 50% match of funds, if available. It further requires a nonprofit entity dedicated to statewide early literacy advocacy to serve as the statewide program’s administrator.

“The DeGood Foundation has been part of statewide expansion plans and efforts for a few years now in partnership with The Dollywood Foundation,” DeGood said. “At this time, there are still many steps that need to take place before the statewide expansion can move forward. For Isle of Wight, this will allow us to keep our 50% cost match for the program long-term so the need to raise funds is dramatically less.”

Once Isle of Wight’s program reaches capacity, DeGood estimates it will cost roughly $17,500 annually to continue operating.

“Originally, the cost would have been $35,000, but we receive a 50% cost match from the state,” DeGood said. “Individuals, companies and/or foundations that are interested in getting involved can reach out for partnership opportunities.”

Potential partners can contact the DeGood Foundation at 757-574-0334 or

Parton’s library kicked off its Isle of Wight program on Feb. 18, 2023, with a celebration at The Smithfield Center, where children from Smithfield and surrounding areas received their first free book. Year-round, new parents and families can register online at or or by mailing a registration form to 11832 Canon Blvd Suite F Newport News, VA 23606, DeGood said. Families can also enroll at their local library branch.