Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme, together with the Cork Interagency Working Group and funding partners launches Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Cork.

The launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Cork will take place in an online (due to current restrictions) on Wednesday 11th November 2020. The event is free to register online at

Stevie G will be MC for the event and will be joined by speakers Katherine Harford (Programme Manager Young Knocknaheeny), Marion Gillooly (Executive Director, The Dollywood Foundation UK) and Grace Walsh (Senior Oral Language Development Officer/Speech & Language Therapist, Young Knocknaheeny). Special video messages of support from public people connected to Cork will be shared.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is an international book-gifting programme, and is the flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation. Children from birth to age five receive free, high-quality, developmentally appropriate books in participating communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and most recently in the Republic of Ireland. Over 147 million children’s books have been gifted since the programme’s inception!

The Imagination Library was first launched in the Republic of Ireland by The Childhood Development Initiative Tallaght in February 2019. There are currently 4,980 children enrolled in this programme, with a further 1,470 children having graduated. 86,911 children’s books have been gifted through this programme in Tallaght to date. The time has come to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Cork! 

The journey to bring the Imagination Library to Cork started in June 2019 with the formation of a local interagency working group. This collaborative group consists of representatives from voluntary, community and statutory sectors in the City and County. See appendix Interagency Working Group.

Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme (lead agency and Cork Affiliate), Cork Healthy Cities, HSE Speech and Language Therapy Cork North, Cork City Council, Cork City Partnership Clg., Cork City Childcare, Cork Education and Training Board, Cork Learning Neighbourhoods, East Cork Traveller Project, Carrigtwohill Family Resource Centre, HSE Community Work Department, CYPSC Cork, HSE Public Health Nursing, Cork City Libraries Children’s Services, Wallaroo Playschool Ltd., and Healthy Ireland.

In addition to securing funding through the interagency working group organisations, generous contributions and grants have been received from funding partners including Barry’s Tea, Rotary Club of Cork, City Northwest Quarter Regeneration, Tuath Housing, and Society of St Vincent de Paul. An Post is sponsoring the delivery of all books to children in the Cork pilot communities, which is a considerable contribution to the running of the programme. As The Dollywood Foundation covers overhead costs associated with making the programme available in the community, our local partners are responsible for the cost price per book and delivery expenses. Therefore, local funds stay local. All funds raised go directly towards serving children and families within Cork communities.

The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins said recently that his wish for Ireland’s children, “would be that they would all have access to reading and access to a musical instrument and, possibly, to be able to swim”. The Imagination Library Cork will put books into the hands and hearts of approximately nearly 3,000 children living in the following areas; Knocknaheeny, Hollyhill, Gurranabraher, Churchfield, Mahon, Carrigtwohill, Ashbourne House and Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre.  Each book is personalised with the child’s name and posted directly to their home following registration, thus levelling the playing field for all children by helping them to build their own home library and inspire a love of reading and learning in early childhood.

It is never too early for parents and caregivers to share and explore books with their baby. Should a child register at birth, they will receive a collection of 60 books by the time they turn 5 and graduate from the programme! This effort creates a gifting experience making books exciting and shows children that someone is thinking of them. The Gold Medal Book Selection Committee, a panel of early childhood literacy experts, chooses titles with content representative of readers living in the Republic of Ireland, featuring beloved characters and iconic authors.

“Never has there been a better time to launch this programme than now, during this pandemic, to have something so positive to offer children and their families. This is an incredible opportunity for them to access books, to experience something new and personal to them, to grow a love of books from their earliest years” –Katherine Harford Programme Manager, Young Knocknaheeny.

Books in the home make a difference beyond literacy. They have a powerful and lifelong impact on all aspects of childhood development. Core objectives for the Imagination Library Cork are improving the home learning environment by increasing access to and ownership of books for young children; enhancing early literacy and language skills and later learning success; enhancing child–parent relationships and interactions and increasing levels of family reading. Cork City F.C. will promote this programme and highlight the important role of fathers’ involvement in child learning and development.

As Dolly Parton said, “You can never get enough books into the hands of young children. I know there are children in Ireland with their own dreams–the dream of becoming a doctor, an inventor, or a teacher. Who knows maybe a writer, or singer. The seeds of these dreams can often be found in books and the seeds planted in a community can grow across the world.”

Enquires to

Katherine Harford, Young Knocknaheeny, Tel 086 0319126 e.

Or Grace Walsh, Young Knocknaheeny, Tel 086 8142233 e.

Information on Young Knocknaheeny.

Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme (YKABC) is a community based prevention, promotion and early intervention programme, based in the Northwest sector of Cork City. It supports parents, caregivers and families, practitioners and services from the pre-birth period into infancy and early childhood. YKABC brings the science, evidence and policy of infancy and early childhood development into best practice through partnership and collaboration to get every child’s life off to the best possible start by:

  • Respectfully enhancing skills and early childhood development knowledge of all parents, practitioners and services;
  • Strengthening and supporting all relationships and environments that are important to every child’s early development;
  • Embedding systems and community change to support early childhood development and address childhood poverty;
  • Engaging in participatory learning and evaluation, documenting and policy development.

YKABC is delivered through locally designed and interconnected strategies, which are underpinned by an Infant Mental Health Framework. YKABC is funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. It is aligned to Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. It is part of the national Area Based Childhood Programme, within TUSLA Prevention Partnership and Family Support Strategy.