Legendary country singer Dolly Parton is championing early childhood literacy, a cause very close to her heart.
Imagination Library is a non-profit group Parton started over two decades ago. Each month the program mails out free books to children. Recently the organization reached a very impressive milestone, they gave out it 100 millionth free book. Not too bad for the company which was started as a small local effort to the help the children of Parton’s hometown, Sevier County, Tennessee.
“We never thought it would be this big. I just wanted to do something great for my dad and for my home county and, at the most, maybe a couple of counties over. But then it just took wings of its own, and I guess it was meant to be," she told NPR.
Robert Lee Parton, Dolly’s father, never learned how to read or write. He was like so many of his generation that had to go to work, as opposed to get an education. The singer has often spoken about how his illiteracy embarrassed him later in life.
She never wanted another child to grow up and feel like her daddy, which is where the inspiration for Imagination Library came from. Parton started the organization in 1995, along with her father who got to see it take off before he passed away.
“He got to hear the kids call me 'The Book Lady.' He got a big kick out of that. But he took great pride and felt like he'd helped do something special," Parton shared at the celebration of the organization giving out the 100 millionth book, which took place at the Library of Congress.
DOLLY GOES TO WASHINGTON: Dolly Parton visited the Library of Congress in Washington today to mark the 100 million books she has quietly donated to children for over two decades. @DavidMuir reports. #AmericaStrong https://t.co/2M7BuS48n3 pic.twitter.com/vhDc2wlkjt— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) February 28, 2018
Dolly Parton started Imagination Library in honor of her father. However, it has grown to more than she ever dreamed it would be. The program is available in communities where a local partner teams up with Imagination Library. It is now in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The Steel Magnolia actress will continue to champion for literacy, as she pushes the organization to her new goal of giving out one billion free books.