Letter to Get Better- Imagination Library, Ship American-Made Books!

by - Monday, April 11, 2016




Dear Dolly Parton and your Book-Slinging Angel Minions,

First, I want to say thank you for distributing do many books to so many children through Imagination Library. What a genius and generous idea it is. I heard about your library, where you can have a book sent to your small child a month, from one of my cousins who used your program, and we have loved it. We really love to see what books are coming down the way next, and some have been big hits with our Bub (enough so that I am sick of reading them!).

More importantly, I think of the moms and dads who may not be able to afford many books for their 0-5-year-old children who can find real help in the Imagination Library. It is well-proven that reading and literacy are such an important part of a child's development, so this could really change lives. That's amazing.

With all that being said, I do have one BIG hang up about the Imagination Library Program- every single book that the Bub has received, from the Little Engine that Could on, has been manufactured in China. Now, I don't have a problem with the country in general, but this outsourced manufacturing causes huge environmental, economical, and ethical problems that someday my plucky train-loving toddler (and all of the children who read your books) will someday inherit:

- The books are sometimes printed with sketchier materials (especially the plastic-coated cover), which will of course go directly into little one's mouths. These lower standards around chemicals and manufacturing have caused issues before, and I am certain we will be regretting allowing these standards again.

- So many books, on this epic scale, create a huge environmental cost just in shipping. These books are heavy, and they must use up tons of fossil fuels just getting to the United States, and it seems those resources would be better spent moving those books to communities all over the country.

- Worst of all, China has infamously bad work and labor standards, and since publishing has not been there all that long, the conditions and regulations of these places remain mostly uninspected and grossly under-policed. More than once, while reading this free book to my Bub, I have had to ask if someone else's baby, or someone else's mother, were abused in making the cute little book. It isn't worth it. No free book is worth someone else being abused.

On your website, you say that Imagination Library and its local partners provide 750,000 children books in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia (the majority still being in the US). It says there are 932,000 children registered! If Imagination Library switched even a third of your book choices over to something made on our continent, the benefits would be massive:

- Sending a strong message to publishers that it is still worthwhile to manufacture in the United States. Publishing is still pretty split between the two countries, but children's books have moved increasingly to China.

- Enabling jobs and livelihoods to the families that might use this program. What you do is so noble, and it's great to help families that need it, but you can also make a big difference by providing more incomes to the parents, not just books for the kids.

- Normalizing safer, more ethical standards. Teaching parents and children about the importance of thinking about where your stuff is made, because it matters.

- Conserving fossil fuels and energy by minimizing shipping distances.

Companies like to try to make their "Made in" almost invisible- they don't want us to notice. If we do notice, they want it to feel impossible to get more ethically made goods (like books) because then they don't seem as responsible ("To stay competitive..."), but some companies, especially smaller American publishing companies are pulling this off:

Workman Publishing, who produces Sandra Boyton Books, still produces books on the continent.

Random House still publishes most (not all) Dr. Seuss books in the United States.

Cricket Media, who make the Babybug magazine (my child loves nothing more than these magazines- check them out) are still published in Chicago. Check Scholastic too!

It's not hard to find lots of great options, but you do have to be intentional in looking for them.

I know you have a huge operation with so many moving parts, but I beg you to consider making this a real part of your book selection process. You can make a huge difference for these kids now and for their world later.

Thank you for everything this program does promoting literacy and access to everyone; you are making a world of difference with your fame and power, and I am genuinely in awe. , This is just one way you can be doing even more phenomenal good in the world. I have never had more faith that a company and organization can handle the task.

Sunshine Guerrilla

If you want to read more about the amazingness of the Imagination Library or to sign your little one (anyone 0-5) up, check here.

If you want to learn more about where your kids' books are published, be sure to check that page with all the fine print across from the title page. Companies do their best to tuck that information in with all that fine print, but it has to be there, so you can look around and find something published ethically OR consider finding it used at a consignment store or on Amazon. If you are really feeling committed, you can even send the publishers a quick note to let them know they didn't get your money and why. Things won't change unless we stand up as consumers. Remember, every dollar you spend is a vote for the world your child will inherit from you.

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