Imagination Library hits milestone

  • Yancey County resident Magnolia Burleson, 4, poses in Spruce Pine Riverside Park with her Imagination Library book in front of a life-size cut-out of program founder, Dolly Parton. (MNJ photo/Juliana Walker)
  • : Magnolia Burleson smiles as she is recognized as the recipient of the 200,000th Imagionation Library book. (MNJ photo/Juliana Walker)
  • Magnolia Burleson poses for a group photo in Riverside Park with the Dolly Parton cut-out, her parents Hogan and Brandi Burleson and her brother, Memphis. (MNJ Photo/Juliana Walker)
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Magnolia Burleson and mother Brandi Burleson embrace. (MNJ Photo/Juliana Walker)

SPRUCE PINE —The Blue Ridge Partnership for Children recently provided its 200,000th book through the Imagination Library Program.

Imagination Library, a program founded by Dolly Parton in 1995, provides children with a free book in the mail from birth until their fifth birthday.

Four-year-old Magnolia Burleson of Yancey County was the lucky recipient of the 200,000th book in the tri-county region BRPC serves.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, Magnolia and her family, parents Hogan and Brandi Burleson and brother Memphis, met for a small celebration at Riverside Park in Spruce Pine.

There, Magnolia posed for photos with a life-size Dolly Parton cut-out, celebrated with balloons and received her prizes, which included educational toys, a one-of-a-kind shirt and, of course, books.

“It gets them started early with getting books and getting read to, so it prepares them for school and later on in their lives,” Hogan Burleson said. “She really enjoys getting the books, and so does Memphis, so it’s really quite a blessing.”

BRPC Community Development Manager Ruthie Styles agreed.

“This program is so wonderful and has such an important goal,” Styles said. “It promotes literacy, a love of reading and it helps in their development, during an important developmental stage for children.”

According to Styles, there are more than 1,700 children across Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties receiving Imagination Library books.

“It’s really incredible the amount of children we serve with this program,” Styles said. “The fact that we’ve hit 200,000 books donated, for our three small counties, I just think it’s amazing.”

The program is free to all children up to the age of five and all books are age appropriate.

“Depending on when you sign up, the child can have a library of up to 60 books,” Styles said. “I’ve known people who have signed their child or grandchild up for the program within an hour of a baby being born. It has that much of an impact.”

To sign up a child for the program, visit and follow the steps. 

BRPC works with the Dollywood Foundation and pays $30 per child each year for books and shipping costs. The books are funded by local donors, grants and fundraisers. 

However, due to the impact of COVID-19, BRPC has not been able to hold many of the fundraisers they would usually hold. 

To donate to Blue Ridge Partnership for Children and the Imagination Library Program visit their website at and click ‘Donate’.