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Parton And Penguin Pair Up to Deliver Books to Refugee Children

By Charlotte Brook

Penguin Random House has partnered with singer Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Give a Book charity on a new project that will deliver a book a month to 200 refugee children living in London, up until they turn five.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Parton was inspired to create her Imagination Library by her father’s inability to read and write. Started in 1995 and originally set up to deliver books to the children of Sevier County in Tennessee, where the singer grew up, the programme now spans five countries and inspires a love of reading by gifting millions of free books to children around the world. In fact, in 2020 the Imagination Library gifted its 150 millionth book!

Give a Book

As part of the initiative here in the UK, the books will be delivered through Give a Book’s network of partner schools and community networks across London, which includes refugee centres and asylum-seeker drop-in centres.

Give a Book works in a targeted way to spread the joy of reading to the hardest-to-reach places in the community. The charity works with disadvantaged children and young people, not only to help educate but also to inspire and offer an escape. The National Literary Trust says that “children who don’t own a book of their own are nearly four times more likely to read below the expected level for their age.”

This scheme doesn’t only gift refugee children one book, but a book every month until they turn five. For some, that could be enough to build up a whole collection.

Collaborating with Penguin

Working with Penguin, the books have been specially selected by a committee, taking care to represent diversity from different ethnicities to disability, relationships and family composition. Refugee families will receive illustrated nursery rhymes and many UK childhood favourites, like Billy and the Dragon, King Jack and Where Is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Just like these books were a comfort to many of us growing up, something we look back on fondly, the hope is that they will help provide the same warmth to families that have been through the unimaginable.

Francesca Dow, managing director of PRH Children’s says, “at Penguin our mission is to make books for everyone, but the reality is not everyone in society has equal access to books. Literature and books are vital to building understanding and creating a sense of belonging that can be crucial in a new and unfamiliar place.”

What a beautiful initiative, created by people who share the same passion and belief in the magic of books and the impact they can have on us from a young age!


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