Aug 10, 2022 - News

Dolly Parton celebrates her Imagination Library program

Dolly Parton reading her book, "Coat of Many Colors."

Dolly Parton during a 2018 celebration of Imagination Library's 100 millionth donated book. Photo: Shannon Finney/Getty Images

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 ā€” 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.

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" ā€” 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."

Dolly Parton singing at a charity luncheon at the Ohio State University ballroom.
Dolly Parton singing at Tuesday's charity luncheon promoting the Imagination Library. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios
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