Dolly Parton celebrates her Imagination Library program
Dolly Parton never imagined her book giveaway program would amount to much more than helping children in her native Sevier County, Tennessee, learn to read.
- But over the past 27 years, millions of young children across the globe have enjoyed a free "Dolly book" every month.
Driving the news: The entertainment icon visited Columbus yesterday to promote her Imagination Library program and thank county sponsors from all over the state.
- Her appearance alongside Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine also served as a celebration — Ohio now has the most enrollees of any U.S. state.
- The governor also declared Aug. 9 "Dolly Parton Day."
Why it matters: Few government programs are as universally praised as the Imagination Library, which mails free books to Ohio children ages 0-5.
- And few celebrities are as universally beloved as Dolly, a self-described lover of reading who takes pride in being known by younger generations not as a country music icon, but as "The Book Lady."
Between the lines: The Imagination Library is an unmitigated success for the DeWines, whose statewide travel promoting new sign-ups coincides with the governor's reelection efforts.
- For Gov. DeWine — pummeled by Republicans for his pandemic response and later by Democrats for his stances on abortion, redistricting and gun rights — the program offers a much-welcomed and apolitical diversion on the campaign trail.
By the numbers: 48% of eligible Ohio children receive books, or more than 343,000 kids in total, though Franklin County's participation rate is considerably lower.
- Fran DeWine's goal is for the state to reach 50% by the end of the year.
Zoom out: A total of 186 million books have been mailed out since Parton launched the program in 1995, around 3 million of which have gone to Ohio families.
What she said: Dolly has earned countless honors in her life, but hopes this program will be her true legacy.
- "I'll be as proud of this as anything I've ever done. When they lay me down, I'll be thinking of the Imagination Library."
- She also admitted to wanting people in 100 years to say about her, "Golly, she looks good for her age."
Words of inspiration: Dolly performed two songs to close out her visit, including "Try" — a theme song for the reading program about making an effort to better yourself and the world.
- It's a lesson she's learned since mailing out her first book in eastern Tennessee.
- "I'm always doin' something. It's just one dream after another."
Dolly's quote du jour: "The DeWines. I love that name, don't you? Please pass DeWine."
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