Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library just gave away its 100 millionth book. One hundred million children’s books were given to children. 100,000,000 collections of words and photos and paintings bound together reached kids because Dolly Parton thought it’d be good.
The Library of Congress honored the country/film/gay/literary icon this morning. While waiting for the dedication ceremony to begin in The Library of Congress, I checked Twitter and learned the EPA is shuttering a federal environmental program that researches effects of chemical exposure on children, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. had their largest yearly increase since 1979 and witch hunt. In the span of one scroll, it was very easy to go from grateful Dolly Parton is in the world to depressed more people aren’t like Dolly Parton.
Then the program began. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden greeted the crowd and informed everyone of her history as a children’s librarian. She told a story of a librarian leading storytelling to autistic children in a library in Chicago. A PBS Newshour report played about the Imagination Library and the woman of the hour was introduced.
Dolly Parton is exactly what you want from Dolly Parton. In a short chat with Librarian of Congress Hayden, Parton spoke about distributing books to children on a monthly basis from birth to the age of 6, each kid receiving a total of 60. She spoke in catch phrases (“I never thought about being the book lady. The painted lady, yes!”), smiling and waving at the young schoolchildren placed in front of her.
Parton explained how what began as a program of distributing 1,500 books a month to preschool children of Servier County, Tennessee has grown to 1,000,000 a month to kids around the world. From a kid that didn’t necessarily love higher education (“I personally didn’t like school.”), Parton has turned her love of literature into something positive for more than nearly 1/3 of the population of America.
Once the interview ended, Parton read Coat of Many Colors to the kids. It’s a children’s book based on her song “Coat of Many Colors.” It’s also been made into multiple films. Once she concluded her reading/singing, Parton went back to the meaning of the book. “We have to love the differences,” she explained to the kids and reminded the adults.
Dolly Parton is a positive force. Through her art and Imagination Library and theme park and appearances, she radiates joy. This morning’s appearance was no different. People of all ages forgot about what’s going on in their phone for a few minutes while she told a story about embracing yourself.
The first song on the first solo Dolly Parton LP is “Dumb Blonde.” The chorus includes the lines, “Just because I’m blond / Don’t think I’m dumb / ‘Cause this dumb blond ain’t nobody’s fool.” This dumb blonde has done more for children’s literacy than any other celebrity.