Dolly Parton visits Kansas to celebrate expansion of her Imagination Library

There are so many reasons to love Dolly Parton but one of the things I admire the most about her is her commitment to promoting childhood literacy. Her charity the Imagination Library donates a free book to each child enrolled in the program, from birth (or whenever they are registered) until they turn five. Since 1995, it’s donated over 200 million books to over 2 million kids across five countries, including the United States. I know it’s active in many states, but the Library has just expanded statewide into Kansas. So Dolly went there and was interviewed by the governor, Laura Kelly, about why she started Imagination Library. Dolly’s dad couldn’t read, and he was embarrassed by that, so Dolly created this charity in his honor. One of the first places that Imagination Library expanded to outside of Tennessee was Pratt, Kansas, so this statewide expansion is a full-circle moment.

Country superstar, American icon and literacy champion Dolly Parton visited Overland Park on Monday to celebrate a new partnership with the state of Kansas, expanding her Imagination Library program.

Now, if you live anywhere in Kansas and you have a child under 5 years old, you can sign up your child for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The result is that every month your child will receive a book in the mail completely for free.

Beyond the voice, beyond the magnetic personality, Dolly Parton describes her motivation for creating Imagination Library: her father.

“Being that far back in the mountains, Daddy didn’t go to school. My daddy didn’t learn to read or write. That troubled him, troubled me that he was troubled,” Parton said at the J KC’s White Theatre.

“Daddy got to live long enough to see Imagination Library take off, and I thought that was great,” Parton said.

“She is — she’s Dolly,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said. “What can I say? There’s no question when she walked into the backstage that that was Dolly Parton.”

Kelly, acting as interviewer, notes the first expansion of Imagination Library outside of Tennessee (Parton’s home state) was into Pratt, Kansas.

The current push to bring the program statewide bookends that move that’s already considered popular in some spots.

“We were told that we would probably get about 1,000 kids in our first year. Well we had 1,000 kids in our first seven hours,” said Kim Hinkle, executive director of the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.

The group was the first to adopt the program in Johnson County.

“If you sign your child up the day they’re born, they’ll have 60 books in their home library by the time they’re in kindergarten,” Hinkle said.

[From Fox4 Kansas City]

As if that weren’t enough, Dolly also visited Olympia, Washington, to celebrate statewide coverage for the Imagination Library there, too. The impact that this charity has makes me emotional just to think about. It can be challenging for people, especially in rural areas, to find and afford high quality books for their kids. Dolly designed this charity so thoughtfully, because getting a new book delivered each month makes a child feel excited and special, and gives them something to look forward to. (It also lightens the burden on parents, since they don’t have to remember to do anything.) The books are always age appropriate for the child, so that they may be challenged, but not overwhelmed by the reading level of the book. And there are braille books and audiobooks for children who need them. This is why Dolly is a national treasure. She has taken her power and influence and truly used it for good. And the Imagination Library isn’t just a one time thing–it’s an ongoing, years-long commitment to each child who is registered.

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