AN initiative originally launched by country music icon Dolly Parton is proving a huge success in Keighley.

A third of eligible under-fives in the town have now been signed up to receive a free book every month from the Imagination Library.

In Keighley the scheme operates across Central, East and West wards, where a combined 1,224 children currently receive an age-appropriate book monthly.

A wide range of titles is provided, including traditional stories and rhymes, publications by well-known authors and illustrators and newly-published books.

In the month leading up to the latest book order, nearly 100 additional under-fives joined the venture – the highest net growth in the UK.

The increase was attributed to Bradford Council contacting private nurseries to inform them about the scheme.

To date, 1,428 Keighley children have benefitted from the Imagination Library, with 16,663 books being delivered to homes across the area.

Keighley's Imagination Library is run by a steering group including primary schools, Strong Close Nursery School, Keighley East district councillor Caroline Firth and Keighley College.

Steering group chair Helen Jones, headteacher at Strong Close Nursery School, says: "Knowing that a third of under-fives living in the three eligible wards are signed up is amazing. But there are still 2,000-plus children missing out on this free opportunity, so we encourage people to sign up the children in their lives.

"We know from feedback we’re getting from families that the books are making a difference. Children are more engaged with reading, families have a stronger bond and reading is becoming a regular habit in homes. Research shows that reading is the biggest indicator of future success for a child, so we think the skills under-fives are learning through these free books will really come into their own once the children start school.

"Strong Close Nursery School hosts storytelling sessions once a month using the Keighley Imagination Library books. Anyone is welcome – check out the dates on our Facebook page."

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library scheme in America in 1995 and her programme now gifts a book each month to more than two million children around the world, with support from community partners.

To run the Keighley scheme it costs £27 a year for each child, and fundraising is taking place to ensure the programme’s future. To support Keighley Imagination Library, email

Parents or carers can sign up their children for free at