Country music icon Dolly Parton likes to give away books and, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, she handed her 100 millionth donation to the Library of Congress.
The 72-year-old is the founder of Imagination Library, a nonprofit organization that aims to donate books all over Sevier County in Tennessee, her hometown. Families who sign up get a book every month, starting from the child's birth until he or she reaches kindergarten.
The program started back in 1996 with the hope of giving every child in her county, regardless of the family's income, books to read. The organization also launched operations across the United States, Canada, Australia, and United Kingdom these past few years that helped increase the number of books donated to even more children. According to the organization's website, as of this writing, the Imagination Library has 281,915 kids enrolled to its program in Tennessee alone.
Do Not Judge A Book By Its Cover
Parton is a singer, songwriter, and an actress, but she is known at home as the book lady.
"I never thought about being 'the book lady,'" the country singer stated. "The painted lady, yes, the overexaggerated lady. That goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover."
The "Jolene" singer celebrated her 100 millionth book donation by heading to Washington D.C. to launch a monthly reading program at the Library of Congress. For six months, the nation's library will host a story time that will feature a reading of a book for children.
"Dolly Parton's work through her Imagination Library is awe-inspiring," stated Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. "They have counted the number of books given away — 100 million — but there is no way to truly quantify the impact this program has had on developing young readers across America and in other parts of the world. This is an extraordinary gift to humankind."
The award-winning artist, who has gained notoriety for her philanthropic effort, said that the effort was inspired by her father, Robert Lee Parton Sr. who died in 2000. Her father, Parton explained, never attended school and therefore could not read nor write.
"Of all the things I've done in my life — and it's been a lot because I've been around — this is the most precious," she added. "Maybe we'll be back for a billion."
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Documentary
Recently, it was announced that Parton's Imagination Library will be the subject of a documentary produced by the Land Grant Films at the University of Tennessee in association with the Dollywood Foundation.
Called "100 Million Stories," a film crew will travel to cities where the organization has launched its operation and interview families who have enrolled to its book programs. As part of the documentary, the crew will also interview authors whose books were selected to be given away to kids.
The documentary is expected to be released by fall.