You may know her as The Smoky Mountain Songbird, The Backwoods Barbie, The Iron Butterfly, or The Queen of Nashville, but there is a reason Dolly Parton is known by many as The Book Lady. For over 20 years, the country music star has been giving books to children in need, and just this week, Parton donated her 100 millionth book.
Founded in 1995, Parton's nonprofit Imagination Library sends free books to children in participating communities all over the world. The book-gifting organization mails age-appropriate titles to young readers from birth until they start Kindergarten, regardless of family income. Within its first 10 years, Imagination Library sent 1 million books. Tuesday, at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Parton presented the 100 millionth book her organization has given away.
“I always like to say that 100 million books have led to 100 million stories,” Parton said during the event. “I am so honored that our little program is now grown to such a point that we can partner with the Library of Congress to bring even more stories to children across the country.”
The special presentation of Parton's 100 millionth donation also served as a fitting kick off event for a new initiative between the singer's Imagination Library and the Library of Congress. For six months starting in March, the Library's Young Readers Center will host a monthly reading program, not just for children in the Washington, D.C., area, but all over the country. The story time, which will feature music and special guests, will be live-streamed and shared with libraries across the U.S.
Parton shared the special presentation and story time, where she read from her children's book Coat of Many Colors, on her Facebook page.
This is far from the first time Parton has made the headlines for her philanthropic activities. In 2016, after fires wreaked havoc in her home state of Tennessee and claimed the lives of at least seven people, the singer's foundation, My People, gave over $8 million to families affected by the tragedy. Each month, Parton donated $1,000 to each family who was left homeless. In the end, survivors received around $10,000 on average.
Tuesday may have marked Parton's 100 millionth book donation, but the Grammy award-winning artist is far from done with her philanthropic work. She is, after all, The Book Lady, and continues to express her desire to give back through her philanthropy, including her incredible literacy program. According to the singer, the Imagination Library is committed to inspiring a lifelong love for reading in young people, and helping them succeed in their academic endeavors. Every month, the book-giving program sends out more than one million books to children across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In partnership with Local Champions who help run the program in various communities around the world, the Imagination Library is helping shape the next generation of readers, writers, and, philanthropists, one book at a time.
“Dolly Parton’s work through her Imagination Library is awe-inspiring,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said at the special ceremony Tuesday. “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 Library of Congress shares this passion for developing young readers and I am so pleased to announce these cooperative programs, which will provide an opportunity for children anywhere to connect with a fun, engaging reading experience.”