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Dolly Parton is famous around the world as a country singer-songwriter. She has sold 100 million records, earned 25 Billboard country chart-toppers, and penned hits such as "9 to 5," "I Will Always Love You," and "Jolene."
Outside of music, however, Dolly Parton is equally acclaimed as a philanthropist, especially for her efforts to promote literacy. Her involvement was inspired by her own childhood, when she used books as an escape from the poverty of her upbringing and saw how illiteracy limited her father's prospects.
In 1995, Parton established Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which began distributing free books to children in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton grew up. The program has grown steadily over the years, expanding throughout the United States and into Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the UK. In 2020, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library distributed its 150 millionth book. She hopes to reach one billion books in her lifetime.
By signing up for the program, any child, regardless of their family's income, will receive a free, high-quality children's book every month. Children are eligible from birth until they enter kindergarten. The goal of the program is to encourage parents to spend time reading with their children and instill a love of books in children of all backgrounds. Some 850,000 children are enrolled in the program.
More about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library:
- Some of the distributed books include The Little Engine That Could and Parton's own children's work I am a Rainbow. Books are selected for age-appropriate messages promoting self-esteem, diversity, appreciation of the environment, and encouragement of the arts.
- The Imagination Library went national in 2000, the same year that Parton's father died. "It made me feel good in my heart that I could do something to make Daddy proud," she said in a 2018 interview.
- Through her Dollywood Foundation, Dolly Parton's philanthropy efforts extend far beyond her Imagination Library, including conservation efforts in the Great Smoky Mountains, support for the American Red Cross, and charities related to cancer and HIV/AIDS. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help fund the critical early research stages of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19.