On Wednesday (September 8), The Library of Congress awarded Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library with the David M. Rubenstein Prize. The recognition comes with a $150,000 grant to continue the Imagination Library’s mission of championing early childhood literacy.
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“Since 2014 when the Imagination Library received ‘best practice’ recognition from the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, the Dollywood Foundation has strategically positioned the Imagination Library for aggressive growth,” the Library of Congress shared in a statement. “Although mailing the books to each child’s home is only one aspect of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, it is a remarkable feat that helps improve literacy on an international scale and creates special moments for children and families.”
When Imagination Library was founded in 1995, books were only distributed to children living in Parton’s hometown of Sevier County, Tennessee. By 2000 a national replication effort was underway following the success of the regional program. In 2003, they reached a significant milestone of one million books mailed.
To date, Parton’s Imagination Library has provided 161 million books to children in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland. The foundation sends, on average, 1.8 million books a month to children, no matter their income, from birth through age five—when they begin school.
“We are grateful to win what truly is the most prestigious award from the Library of Congress. This award showcases how the dream Dolly had years ago has become one of the world’s largest book gifting programs,” Jeff Conyers, Dollywood Foundation president, stated. “She continues to express her pride in what the Imagination Library has become, and she is excited for the growth it is poised to experience moving forward. There is no doubt Dolly treasures being called ‘The Book Lady’ more than just about anything.”
More information about The Imagination Library or about how to start a program in an area without The Imagination Library is available on the website.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik