Imagination Library Effectiveness
Methodology & Results from Previous Evaluations
A brief summary of methodology & results from previous evaluations
Since Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library (IL) it has spread to multiple areas across the country, and some of the local organizations have conducted evaluations of their programs. The information below summarizes methodology used with the evaluations we have found and their findings.
All of the studies we found looked at parents’ reports of the effects the program has had on their children as well as their home literacy environment. Studies seem to have followed the research design from High/Scope’s Literacy Outcomes and the Household Literacy Environment: An Evaluation of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. These studies typically selected a random sample of parents enrolled in IL and mailed surveys to parents, asking them to complete and return the surveys for some incentive (usually a children’s book). The survey return rates ranged from 22% to 52% and sample sizes varied from 89 to 1082 participating parents.
General findings from these surveys are:
• Parents report that IL effectively increased parents’ time spent reading with children, children’s interest in books, parents’ comfort while reading to children, and parents’ awareness of their children’s reading levels.
• Measures of programs’ intensity, such as ration of IL books to total children’s books and reports of child excitement for the arrival of books in the mail, were associated with parent reports of program effectiveness.
• Parents from the highest risk families – single-parents with lower education levels and fewer total numbers of children’s books in the home – report the most positive effects from IL.
• IL households demonstrate rich home literacy environments with high levels of shared reading and high levels of parent interaction and engagement of children around reading.
In addition to the basic design described above, some studies further evaluate their programs. For example:
• The study conducted by the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy looked at whether the dosage – how long children had been enrolled in IL – influenced parents’ evaluations on the program. They categorized children into five groups and found a small but significant improvement in the home literacy environment as children enrolled were enrolled in the program for increased level of times from less than 11 months to at least 48 months.
• The IL in Millingtown, Ohio evaluated the programs effects on kindergarten readiness by comparing the scores of a small sample (69 students) of IL participatants to non-participants. They found that the average score for participating students was measurably higher that the average score of non-participating students.
• The Governor’s Foundation in Tennessee surveyed teachers for their professional judgments about the readiness and performance of students in their prekindergarten and kindergarten classes based on whether or not the students participated in IL. Teachers rated the group of IL participants slightly above their expectations for preparedness and the group of nonparticipants slightly below their expectations for preparedness. Additionally, teachers generally rated IL participants as having slightly better reading skills and performance than students from previous classes.