Q:  “You give away free books. What’s the catch?”

A:  No catch. There is no cost, ever, to families participating in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sponsored by Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy. The local CAT organizes the funding for the program typically through federal, state, and local grants, and generous contributions from community-oriented businesses and individuals.

Q:  “How come I sometimes see first spelled f-i-r-s-t and sometimes it is spelled f-e-r-s-t? Is that a typo?”

A:  No typo! Our founder’s name is Robin Ferst, and we often talk about children receiving their first books from us. When we’re talking about the name of the program, we spell it F-E-R-S-T, after Robin.

Q:  “How do I get my child’s train bookend?”

A:  After the CAT has ordered and received the bookends, your child will receive a coupon for a free bookend in the next newsletter. On the coupon is the address in your community where you can pick it up. Often you will pick up your bookend set at your local library.

Q:  “I registered my child two months ago. Why hasn’t she received her first book?”

A:  The Ferst Foundation orders books only once a month, and we must order books at least one month in advance. Depending on when we receive your child’s registration form, it can take two to three months for your child to receive her first book. But don’t worry—once your first book arrives, you will receive books regularly after that, generally within the first two weeks of the month.

Q:  “Who chooses the books that my child receives?”

A:  The first book that every child receives, regardless of age, is “The Little Engine That Could.” After that, age-appropriate books are chosen by an independent panel of parents and educators through the Dollywood Foundation. Books are selected, by age, to complement general cognitive skill levels and to help children reach the developmental milestones of early literacy.

Q:  “My child doesn’t turn 5 until next month, why can’t he/she register?”

A:  Once a child turns five years old, they must “graduate” from the program. Unfortunately, because books must be ordered a month in advance and because it may take two to three months for a child registering to receive their first book, we cannot register children who are close to turning five years old. This keeps us from having to “graduate” a child who has just entered the program, and avoids the disappointing scenario in which a child receives his first book, then his last book, within a couple of months.