City of Pittsburgh ends partnership with program that provided free books for kids

PITTSBURGH — After four years and 140,000 children’s books donated to kids in the City of Pittsburgh, the city has ended a partnership that has provided free books. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program began in the city back in 2019 when Mayor Peduto’s administration brought it to town.

The books were free for all children under five years old, with a new one arriving every month. The program was made possible thanks to a $250,000 grand from the Benter Foundation as well as help from the United Way.

Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration tells Channel 11 the funds ran out, and they could not secure more.

Local mother, Alyssa Williams, said her 2-year-old has 26 books thanks to the program and she’s disappointed to see it go.

“It was not in Washington County, where I grew up. When I moved to Allegheny County, my daughter was just one week old and I signed her up. She’s been getting books ever since,” Williams said. “I was really sad. I told my husband right away and he was sad as well because it’s really hard as a parent to build a library of books. Books are expensive. Cost of living is rising. I immediately sent an email to the City of Pittsburgh and I have yet to year back.”

Maria Montano with the city tells Channel 11 the program grew year after year as more kids learned about it, which created a problem with the funding source. She says they are in talks with other local organizations to see if there’s a way to keep the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in town, but for now, all the children received their last book in April

“We’ve been privileged to have this program so far. I understand it’s a privilege, not a right, but I hate to see the funding dry up without a lot of information,” Williams said.

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