LAGRANGE, Ky. — A program that reaches five countries and gifts over one million books to children each month is expanding to right here in the Bluegrass State.

What You Need To Know

  • Dolly Parton announced a statewide expansion of her Imagination Library program

  • The Walkenhorst family has received 11 books from the Imagination Library

  • The program is dedicated to inspiring a love for reading

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has been inspiring a love for reading since 1995. Parton was inspired by her fathers inability to read, and started the program for children within her home county.

For the Walkenhorst family, a love for reading is something that comes naturally.

Courtney Walkenhorst entertaining her youngest son, Cliff. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Wilson)

“With my two-year-old, we read a few times a day, usually in the morning and then after a nap and then before bed," said Courtney Walkenhorst. "With the little one, we try to include him when it works out for us."

When she found out about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Walkenhorst was set on finding a way to get involved.

“We love books a whole lot so I was really determined to get books for him because he was an only child at the time. So I started putting in ZIP codes for all the family members that we had to see whose house we could get them sent to,” Walkenhorst said.

She's been receiving the books through her mother-in-law who delivers them when she comes to visit. The program gives books free of charge to children from birth to the age of five.

“We like to keep it fresh with the books that we are reading. So we enjoy getting something new every month without having to pay for it, because we only have so many spots in the budget for things for the boys," Walkenhorst said. "New toys don't come every single month but it's nice to get a new book every month."

Living in Oldham County, the Imagination Library had been unavailable to Walkenhorst — that's why she was getting her books delivered to her mother-in-law in Fort Thomas.

That was until Dolly Parton announced the statewide expansion of her imagination library throughout the Commonwealth.

“We’ll definitely keep getting them as long as they send them to him," Walkenhorst said. "We want to have more kids so I don't know if we'll sign up all of our kids, but we'll probably sign up baby brother, too."

Registered children receive an age-appropriate book once a month, a gift that keeps on giving for Walkenhorst’s sons Teddy and Cliff.

“He points at something and says the name of it and I didn't even know he knew what that thing was. It's something that we talk about but he's just never shown interest in,” Walkenhorst said. “So this morning we were even looking at a book and he said mouse and I just never heard him say mouse and we really only see them in books. I love seeing stuff like that.”

It's a chance for Walkenhorst to share some of her favorite memories as a child with her own sons.

“My mom always read with me. I remember her reading with me, my grandmother reading with me and it's just been really sweet to be able to read to my boys and to see their grandmas reading to them, and aunts and uncles and their dad too,” Walkenhorst said.

The Walkenhorst family currently has 11 books gifted by Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The program has 1,902,858 children registered and has gifted 165,176,249 books.