Dolly Parton might have put an end to plans to build a statue at the State Capitol in her honor, but that isn’t stopping her from being recognized by the state of Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee signed a resolution on Wednesday, April 21, officially recognizing the country music superstar for her work with children’s literacy, thanks to her philanthropic Imagination Library.
“Proud to sign this resolution and recognize our TN Treasure [Dolly Parton] for her contributions to children’s literacy,” Lee tweeted. “Since 1995, Dolly has worked far beyond 9 to 5 to distribute 152+ million books to 1.8+ million kids. Thank you, Dolly! TN will always love you.”
Proud to sign this resolution and recognize our TN Treasure @DollyParton for her contributions to children’s literacy. Since 1995, Dolly has worked far beyond 9 to 5 to distribute 152+ million books to 1.8+ million kids.
Thank you, Dolly! TN will always love you. pic.twitter.com/JZ0eKT2VHN
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 21, 2021
Parton has yet to speak out about her latest honor, but she has previously spoken about her Imagination Library, and why it remains one of her accomplishments that she is most proud of, both personally and professionally,
“That is one of the things I am proudest of, of all the things that I’ve done since I’ve been in the business,” Parton told Marie Claire. “My dad — and a lot of my relatives, and a lot of people in that part of the country [where I’m from], but especially my dad — couldn’t read and write. He was kind of embarrassed by that, and he thought it was too hard of a thing to learn to do after he was grown. And I just remember feeling bad for my dad because he was so smart. And I thought, ‘Lord, if he’d had an education, no telling what all he could have been.’”
The Imagination Library gives away one book a month for children up to five years of age. Inspired by her father’s own illiteracy, Parton intended to just serve Sevier County, where she grew up in East Tennessee, never imagining that Imagination Library would grow to give books out not only in the United States, but in several other countries as well.
“I remember, out of my heart, just thinking, ‘I’m going to do something. I’m going to start a program. I’m going to get my dad to help me with it,” the Grand Ole Opry member recalled. “So we just started the little program in our home county there, in Sevier County in East Tennessee. And so I said, “Dad, I’m going to start this program. I want you to help me with this. It’s where we give books to children. From the time they’re born, they get a book once a month in the mail with their little name on it, until they start school.’
“And so we started the little program, and it really did well,” she continues. “And I’d hoped that it would [be] there, in the county, maybe just a few counties over. But then the governor at the time was a man named Phil Bredesen, wonderful man, and he got wind of the program, and he said, ‘Well, this is a great program. Let’s take this all over Tennessee.’ So we did. And the next thing you know, we went into Canada, and now we’re all over the world, different parts. And so we’ve given away like 150 million books. And my dad got to live long enough to see it doing well.”