CHILDREN across Scotland have received more than 25,000 free books thanks to a partnership between country music star Dolly Parton and the Wheatley Foundation.

The foundation, part of the Wheatley Group, teamed up with Parton’s Imagination Library to help children develop their reading skills.

Imagination Library was set up by the singer in 1995 and allows children under the age of five to be sent a specially chosen book free of charge every month until their fifth birthday.

On National Reading Day on January 23, the Wheatley Foundation announced that a total of 1293 young children have signed up to the scheme – with 25,206 books delivered since 2018.

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The books are available to tenants of Wheatley Homes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dumfries and Galloway.

Wheatley Foundation chairman Professor Paddy Gray said: “The Imagination Library is a great way of introducing toddlers to the joys of reading.

“As well as increasing opportunities for children in later life, it really encourages regular family time too.

“On National Reading Day, we are proud to be able to announce that we have already distributed 25,000 books to children across Wheatley communities.”

The National: Parton's charity has helped thousands of Scottish childrenParton's charity has helped thousands of Scottish children

Lyndsay Calderwood, from Stranraer, signed up her three-year-old son Alfie to the scheme 12 months ago.

The 37-year-old said: “We love the Imagination Library. I worked as a nursery nurse and I know how important reading is for a child.

“It’s great to have access to this scheme and it is great to get a new story delivered every month. Alfie loves reading as it is, but a new book really prompts him to read. It’s lovely that the parcel is addressed to him, and he loves opening it.

“The Imagination Library is a great service. New books can be expensive, so this can be beneficial for lots of families and their children.”

The flagship programme of Parton’s charity, The Dollywood Foundation, has gifted over 200 million free books in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia and the Republic of Ireland.

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The Imagination Library sends more than two million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to enrolled children from birth to age five.

Parton said she envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading and inspiring children to dream more, learn more, care more and be more.

Kirsty Hill, regional director (Scotland), The Dollywood Foundation, added: “We are excited to be celebrating alongside the Wheatley Foundation as we deliver the 25,000th Imagination Library book to children living in their communities.

"Dolly Parton’s ongoing commitment to support children in Scotland through her Imagination Library means more and more families can experience the magic of a new book arriving every month – but we could never do it alone.

“We know the Wheatley Group share our passion to help give children the best start in life and without their commitment to Dolly’s vision none of this would have been possible.

"I look forward to celebrating the next big milestone as we continue to work together and support more children to dream big.”