Dolly Parton is set to spread more joy next year as her famed literacy program expands statewide in California. According to a tweet from Governor Gavin Newsom, every child under 5 can receive a free book in the mail each month beginning in June 2023. Over 2.4 million children in the state will be eligible to participate.
Parton’s Imagination Library, which launched in 1995, is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age 5, no matter their family’s income. It all began in Parton’s hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee, before expanding its reach across the globe.
As of December 2022, the program has gifted 197,460,315 free books since its inception.
“I’m so thrilled at the overwhelming support to make my Imagination Library available to every child in California!” the “Jolene” singer, 76, shared in a press release in October, which announced the signing of Senate Bill 1183 — bipartisan legislation in partnership with The Dollywood Foundation to establish the Imagination Library of California Statewide Program.
“I want to thank Senator Shannon Grove and Senator Toni Atkins for inspiring tremendous support from California legislators and Governor Gavin Newsom for enthusiastically signing this bill,” she added. “Today is an amazing milestone for children and families across the state! We still have a lot of work to do, but together we can inspire a love of reading in children across California that will last a lifetime.”
Parton’s program was inspired by her late father, Robert Lee Parton, who never learned to read or write. She was proud that he was able to see the project come to life and hear children call her “The Book Lady.”
“He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all of his dreams,” Parton wrote in a letter on the website. “Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission. In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children.”
Dolly Parton, spreading love and knowledge everywhere she goes!