KHF Funds Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Kansas communities

May 16, 2019

Media Contact Ashley Booker, 316-491-8414

WICHITA, Kan. – In early 2019, the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) initiated the Sparking Imaginations, Building Literacy grant, providing $1 million over three years in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL). The grant will help serve approximately 18,000 children in seven target communities in Kansas. DPIL makes free, high-quality books available to children age birth to the month of the fifth birthday. The goal is to encourage greater parent-child interaction with books and language, to help in early literacy development. Parents can enroll children at no cost in the DPIL program and children will receive one age-appropriate book each month until they reach age 5 or move to a non-sponsored community.

The eight targeted school districts (Arkansas City, Dodge City, Garden City, Kansas City and Turner-KC, Liberal, Topeka and Wichita) were identified as high-need areas based on below-average reading scores and above-average rates of free or reduced-price lunch recipients. Each community in these districts will receive an allocation with this grant based on population size of ages 0-5. KHF will contribute $25/per child enrolled/per year for three years in these seven communities and the child will receive books unless the family moves from the sponsored community.

Local community organizations serving each of the seven cities will coordinate the awareness, outreach and sign-up for children in their areas. Parents can enroll children at no cost in the local DPIL programs, and children will receive one age-appropriate book each month from birth until the month of their fifth birthday, shipped directly to their homes. Information about each KHF target community is below:

Arkansas City
DPIL Affiliate: Southeast Kansas Education Service Center *
Total 3-year allocation: $38,000
Sandy Elsworth, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center
(620) 724-6281

Dodge City
DPIL Affiliate: United Way of Dodge City
Total 3-year allocation: $49,000
Gayle Ausmus, United Way
(620) 227-8793

Garden City
DPIL Affiliate: United Way of Finney County, Garden City
Total 3-year allocation: $54,000
Deb Oyler, United Way
(620) 275-1425

Kansas City (Kansas City and Turner-KC districts)
DPIL Affiliate: United Way of Wyandotte County
Total 3-year allocation: $172,000
Jennifer Traffis, United Way
(913) 371-3674

DPIL Affiliate: Seward County United Way
Total 3-year allocation: $38,000
Clarissa Carrillo, United Way
(620) 624-5400

DPIL Affiliate: United Way of Greater Topeka *
Total 3-year allocation: $228,000
Juliet McDiffett, United Way
(785) 228-5122

DPIL Affiliate: United Way of the Plains *
Total 3-year allocation: $420,000
Beth Oaks, United Way
(316) 267-1321

(*Existing DPIL affiliate)

The Kansas Health Foundation identified “educational attainment” as one of our funding priorities because higher education is related to better health outcomes. Kansas data indicates that lower levels of education are often linked to lack of health care coverage, limited ability to pay for medical or dental treatment, higher use of tobacco products, increased obesity rates and poor health outcomes. The state average for graduation rates (2018) was 87.3 percent, which means that 12.7 percent of students were left behind. In addition, 63 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading.

“With the launch of our KHF “Can’t Wait to Read” literacy campaign, we knew that we needed to continue to find simple ways for parents to introduce reading to children before they enter school,” said Steve Coen, KHF president and CEO. “The DPIL initiative in these seven communities will help children build their own home libraries and help parents encourage the habit of reading from an early age. The window for early learning closes quickly and parents and caregivers are key to improving children’s literacy.”


The Kansas Health Foundation is based in Wichita, but statewide in its focus. With a mission to improve the health of all Kansans, KHF envisions a culture in which every Kansan can make healthy choices where they live, work and play. To achieve this, KHF focuses its work in four impact areas: access to affordable health care, healthy behaviors, civic and community engagement and educational attainment. During its 30-year history, KHF has provided more than $500 million in grants to Kansas communities and organizations and looks forward to working toward its mission and vision for many years to come.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) launched in 1995 by the Dollywood Foundation as a means for children from birth until the month of their fifth birthday, to receive brand new, age-appropriate books mailed directly to the home, no matter their family’s income. As of March 2019, more than 117 million free books have been distributed throughout the United States and four other countries since the program was launched.

Connect With Us

Sign Up for KHF's Electronic Newsletters

Learn more about the latest Foundation news, grant opportunities, stories and health articles by signing up for KHF’s e-newsletters. Join today!