CLEVELAND — Cara Byrne loves reading with her kids.

What You Need To Know

  • All three of Cara Byrne's kids have been enrolled in Imagination Library

  • Imagination Library gifts books to children from birth to age 5

  • The program was started by Dolly Parton in 1995

  • Byrne said she uses books from the program in her classes at Case Western Reserve University

The family gets a free book in the mail each month from the Imagination Library.

With her kids piled onto her lap reading, Byrne said, “When my oldest daughter was first born, we learned about Imagination Library and at first we thought it was too good to be true.”

Imagination Library was created by Dolly Parton in 1995 and gifts books to kids up to age 5 regardless of income.

All three of Byrne’s children have been enrolled in the program, even her 1-year-old son, Augie. 

“So, Augie is still getting board books, which are perfect for him to handle and manipulate,” Byrne said. “But when he gets older, he’ll start getting longer picture books.”

Byrne said Imagination Library helped her instill an early love for reading in her kids.

It’s a shared hobby that she cherishes. 

“It’s given me a great opportunity to get to know my kids a little bit better,” Byrne said.

When Byrne isn’t reading picture books with her kids, she’s lecturing about them at her job.

“I often will bring Imagination Library books to my classroom at Case Western Reserve University and my students and I will read them,” Byrne said.

Byrne researches representation in children’s literature.

She said kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from picture books.

“But really as adults, we can learn a lot from picture books as well,” Byrne said. “Reading them with my kids, reading them with my adult students, and even just reading them myself, I find that I become a better person.”

Byrne said she hopes to pass on the value of children’s books with others.

In 2017, she built a free library in her front yard.

“We try to fill it with a lot of books that are interesting to our neighbors,” Byrne said while walking to exchange books at her library. 

Byrne said she often shares books from Imagination Library.

If you’re interested in enrolling in the program, visit their website