Dolly Parton‘s birthday is today, but she’s giving, not getting.
The legendary country music star is a champion of early childhood literacy. Every month, her Imagination Library, mails a free book to more than a million children.
Parton visited the Library of Congress this week to celebrate a major milestone. The delivery of its 100 millionth book. She told NPR,
“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.
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. He was such a smart man, though. He just had such good common sense. They call it horse sense in the country.
But Daddy thought it was just something he couldn’t learn after he was grown, so he never tried to learn to read and write. And that was just kind of embarrassing to him. But I didn’t want Daddy to feel embarrassed.”
Parton gave the children of Sevier County early access to books, something her Dad never had. She started the Imagination Library in 1995, and her father was involved. He was able to see the program take off before he died in 2000.
“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 donated a copy of Coat of Many Colors to the permanent collection of the Library of Congress to mark the delivery of the 100th million book by her nonprofit Imagination Library.
But Parton’s ambitions won’t stop with 100 million…
“We’re going for a billion, maybe, in my lifetime. I’m a big dreamer, you know.”
(Photo, Shawn Miller/Library of Congress; via NPR)