Dolly Parton is many things: singer, songwriter, actress, and theme park proprietress. But despite all these talents, perhaps her role as a philanthropist gives her the most joy. Dolly Parton never forgot where she came from. She was once dirt poor in the Smoky Mountains. Now, she has the resources to give back to her hometown and she’s done just that, multiple times over. Dollywood employs 30,000 people in Pigeon Forge and brings millions of tourists to the area each year, but her other way of giving back impacts even the least of these: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This original idea was developed to encourage and foster literacy among the children of her hometown and the surrounding Smoky Mountain communities.
It all started in 1995, when Dolly realized the need children had for books, especially children from impoverished families. Ergo, the Imagination Library was born. The foundation mails a brand new, age-appropriate book every month every child under five in Sevier County, Tennessee.
Over the over 20 years of existence, the Imagination Library has made a difference Eastern Tennessee and now all over the world. Here are some interesting tidbits from the Imagination Library library:
- The very first book the foundation mails to all children is The Little Engine That Could.
- The very final book a child receives is Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!
- The 100 Millionth book was dedicated to the Library of Congress in 2018.
- In 2000, the program expanded to children living in Branson, Missouri and in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, two locations where Dolly’s businesses operates.
- There are more than 1,399,000 children enrolled.
- By the end of 2018 more than 113 million books had been delivered!
- In the United Kingdom, the Imagination Library mailed its 100,000th book in 2009.
- Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia have programs in their countries.
- More than 1 million books are mailed EVERY MONTH!
- In 2009, Dolly wrote and published her own book for children, I am a Rainbow. She vowed to donate all royalties to the Dollywood Foundation, which oversees the Imagination Library.
The Imagination Library works by inspiring communities to take initiative when it comes to promoting literacy. A community can provide the Imagination Library program for their preschool-aged children by fronting the money for the books, covering mailing fees, and registering the children into the database. The Dollywood Foundation takes care of the rest and ensures delivery of the books to all the homes. Is your community is ready to make this commitment to children?