While millions of children settle in to read their favorite books with teachers and mentors (often virtually this year), many of the actual books they’ll open come from Parton’s efforts. The legendary icon started her Dollywood Foundation in 1988, and after that unveiled The Imagination Library, which has helped children explore the magic of story time all around the world.
A new video helps show the impact Parton’s work has had, with kids in five different countries getting millions of free books each year. Inspired by her own father’s struggle with reading, Parton founded the Imagination Library to support literacy, and each child gets a free book every month until the age of five — no matter their family’s income. The books currently go out to 1.7 million kids in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland, and over 154 million books have been given out since 1995.
It’s just another example of how Dolly Parton continues to give back, working just as hard on charity as she does on her music. She has donated heavily to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and also stepped up to help her fellow East Tennesseans with ongoing $1,000 checks after a wildfire destroyed homes in 2017. And just last year, she helped fund the Modern COVID-19 vaccine, giving a cool $1 million to researchers when the pandemic started.
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Read Across America Day was started in 1998 as a way to excite kids about reading, and is celebrated on the birthday of children’s author, Dr. Seuss. This year’s theme is “a nation of diverse readers,” and the Read Across America website offers a read-along plan highlighting one special book each month.