Dolly Parton has been giving books to children all over the world for 20 years with her Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library. She first launched her Imagination Library in Sevier County, Tennessee (where she was born and raised) in 1995. In the years since, the organization has mailed over 125 million free books out.
The program sent free books to children from birth to age five and helped inspire a love of reading in the lives of the children in the mountains of her youth and has since spread all over the world.
Parton says that the idea was inspired by her own father’s inability to read or write.
She told us, “That story about my dad though is so touching to me because my dad was so smart and so crippled by the fact that he couldn’t read. It bothered him, he was embarrassed by it and I just always told him… I said, ‘Dad, there’s a lot of people can’t read and write’ and he thought he was too old to ever learn, you know, he wouldn’t even try because he just thought, ‘That’s for kids, I can never learn it now.’ So, he never got a chance to do it. So, it’s very very emotional to me and personal and I was so happy that he took such pride in getting to help me with that.”
Dolly added, “My daddy just loved it when all the little kids would call me ‘The Book Lady.’ That meant more to him than the fact that I had become a star and worked my butt off.”
She noted in a video about the program on her own webpage, “Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission. In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children.”
“Of course, I have not done this alone. The real heroes of our story are the thousands of local organizations who have embraced my dream and made it their own. They raise millions of dollars each year and wake up every day with a passion to make sure their kids have every opportunity to succeed.”
You can donate to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, or learn if you can register your child for it, here.