There are plenty of things to love about Dolly Parton, but one of her crowning achievements during her incredible music career has been her dedication to giving back to charity. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is a generous organization committed to giving free books to children.
Now, Parton's organization is being honored for its dedication to children's literacy. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is being honored as a 2021 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The award is given annually to an organization or individual for contributions to preK-12th grade education.
The Imagination Library was also recently recognized by the Library of Congress as part of the 2021 Library of Congress Literacy Awards. The organization was awarded the 2021 David M. Rubenstein Prize worth $150,000.
The History of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Parton has never forgotten her roots and has always valued her family. In fact, her decicision to create the Imagination Library was inspired by her father.
"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 told NPR. "He was such a smart man, though. He just had such good common sense. They call it horse sense in the country."
As a tribute to her father, Parton first created her charity in 1995 to give children in her hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee free books. Her dedication to inspire a love of reading in local children, the program was a huge success. By 2000, a national replica of the Imagination Library Program was launched to serve children all over the United States.
"We never thought it would be this big," Parton told NPR at the presentation of her 100 millionth book to the Library of Congress. "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."
If you are interested in the Imagination Library program, visit their website to see if it is already set up in your community. The program partners with Local Champions who might be a school district or public library. The Local Champions are responsible for enrolling local children into the program who will receive high-quality age-appropriate books on a monthly basis.
What started with 1,700 books in 1995 has turned into millions of books every month to encourage early literacy in young children. The book gifting program has even expanded internationally to Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
This article was originally published in January of 2020.