Dolly Parton is, hands down, one of the most inspiring singer/songwriters, if not the most.
Outside of her decades-long career of award-winning music, Parton has made an incredible impact on the youth of the world through her nonprofit organization, the Imagination Library. (More specifically, the Library has a presence in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland.)
According to the organization’s website, “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income.” This organization was created as a tribute to Parton’s father who was not able to read. Parton wanted to make sure that future generations did not have the same barriers to literacy that her father did.
In 2021, the Imagination Library gifted a total of 22,140,308 books to children around the world.
For her work with the Imagination Libary, Parton was recently awarded the National Education Association’s 2022 Friend of Education Award. The award was announced at the NEA Annual Representative Assembly (RA) in Chicago. The Friend of Education Award is the NEA’s highest award.
“Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and America’s educators are proud to bestow NEA’s highest honor, the ‘Friend of Education’ award, upon her,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “In addition to bringing incalculable joy, with a smile like a breath of spring and a soft voice like summer rain, to fans across the world, she has championed literacy, learning and diversity in literature for nearly half a century. In distributing more than 2 million books each month, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has poured a cup of ambition for millions of young children. She knows that in tough times we rely on each other, as demonstrated by her support for wildlife conservation, wildfire relief, and her contribution toward COVID-19 vaccine development which has saved millions of lives worldwide. Educators will always love Dolly, and I am personally honored to name her 2022’s ‘Friend of Education.'”
“I want to thank you for giving me the NEA’s Friend of Education Award. What a special honor,” Parton shared in her acceptance speech. “I never imagined we’d be gifting over 180 million books. I think that’s amazing, don’t you? So on behalf of my team and all of our local partners to make the Imagination Library possible, I’m happy to accept this wonderful award. And most important I want to take this opportunity to thank you so much for all that you do. Together, let’s continue to inspire kids to dram more, care more, learn more and therefore be more. And remember, I will always love you. Thank you. ”
See more about the Imagination Library and Parton’s full speech below.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic