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Spotlight: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Did you know February is National Library Lover’s Month? And who better to spotlight than the very lady who has helped children across the world find their love for reading and start their very own personal library through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Every month, the nonprofit program mails a free book to more than a million children, from infants to preschoolers. From its modest roots in eastern Tennessee, the Imagination Library has grown to reach children in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

“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.” Dolly told NPR.

Parton’s inspiration for the Imagination Library was deeply personal: her father, Robert Lee Parton. Like many people of his generation, he began working at a young age to help support his family.

“My dad didn’t get the chance to go to school. And Daddy couldn’t read and write, and that was kind of crippling to him,” Parton said. “He was such a smart man, though. He just had such good common sense. They call it horse sense in the country.”

Dolly was determined to give the children of Sevier County something her father never had: early access to books. She started the Imagination Library in 1995, and involved her father, too. He was able to see the program take off before he died in 2000.

The program is available in communities where a local partner has teamed up with the Imagination Library. Local partners pay about $25 per child per year, which covers the cost of the book and shipping.

A panel of educators and reading specialists picks books that are developmentally appropriate for each year of a child’s life.

The human brain develops rapidly during the first few years of life. And studies have found that reading out loud to a child not only promotes literacy and a love of reading, but also has lasting cognitive and educational benefits.

“It also helps children build knowledge and expand their horizons”, Dolly Parton said.

“If you can read, even if you can’t afford education, you can go on and learn about anything you want to know. There’s a book on everything,” she said. “So I just think that it’s important for kids to be encouraged to read, to dream and to plan for a better life and better future.”

In 2018 Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library reached 100 million books.

“We’re going for a billion, maybe, in my lifetime,” she said, with a delightful Dolly laugh. “I’m a big dreamer, you know.”

Make a Donation:

$25 = cost of providing an Imagination Library book to a child each month for 1 year!


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