Children in Baltimore will soon qualify for free books by mail. (Wilson Ring/AP)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday announced a new effort to provide monthly age-appropriate book mailings for Baltimore children younger than six.

Tennessee is the only other state to partner with the Imagination Library initiative, a child literacy program that was started by country singer Dolly Parton.

Seven counties in Maryland have their own partnerships, as did the city of Baltimore. But Baltimore’s was reaching only a handful of children, and the Hogan administration decided to launch a state-run effort to involve more families from the city.

“I want children in Maryland to be excited about books and reading — and every single child should have access to books, regardless of their family’s circumstances,” Hogan (R) said in an announcement.

“My hope is that this program will foster a love of reading and learning, and help put these children on a path for lifelong success.”

The Youth League of Baltimore will help coordinate the effort — dubbed “Governor’s Young Readers” — by identifying local partners to lead fundraising efforts, promote the program and help families sign up for it.

The program costs $25 per child, and according to the partnership, the Maryland Department of Human Resources will cover half that amount. The state said about 41,200 children are eligible in Baltimore.

Parton started Imagination Library 20 years ago in the east Tennessee county where she grew up, hoping to instill a love of reading among preschool children. She announced in 2000 that she would make the program available for any community that wants to partner with her to replicate it.

Since its inception, Imagination Library has mailed about 60 million books to children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. More than 1,600 local communities participate in the program, which has enrolled nearly 860,000 children in the United States alone.

Hogan said childhood books are “incredibly important building blocks” for youth education, noting that his favorite as a youngster was “The Little Engine that Could.”