Saint Dolly does it again: Imagination Library expands free book efforts in California

Dolly Parton wearing a red fringe blouse holding a guitar and standing in front of a microphone on a stage
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library seeks to nurture a love for reading in children younger than 5. The program currently serves 30 California counties.
(Jack Plunkett / Invision via Associated Press)

Attention California kids: Go read, go read, go read, go reeeeaaadd! I’m begging you to get free books because you can.

“Jolene” hitmaker Dolly Parton has partnered with Gov. Gavin Newsom to bring her free books program to children across all 58 counties of California. As part of the partnership announced Tuesday, Parton’s Imagination Library will provide California children younger than 5 with a free book — available in English and Spanish — every month.

Imagination Library currently serves 30 California counties. The newly unveiled expansion is expected to serve the entire state by 2028.

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“Today is an amazing milestone for children and families across the state!” Parton said in a news release. “We still have a lot of work to do, but together we can inspire a love of reading in children across California that will last a lifetime.”

Parton launched her Imagination Library in 1995, serving children in Sevier County, Tenn., where she grew up. Through the program, the pop culture legend seeks to foster a passion for reading in preschool-age children.

According to the Imagination Library website, the program quickly gained traction — with one million books mailed out to children by 2003. Imagination Library is in five countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Ireland.

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Newsom said in Tuesday’s announcement that the singer’s efforts will help broaden “millions of young minds to a world of unlimited possibilities.”

Also known for hits “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You,” Parton is known for putting her money where her mouth is.

In 1988, she created the Dollywood Foundation, which initially sought to decrease high school dropout rates through monetary support including scholarships. In 2016, she launched the My People Fund to help Sevier County residents recover from devastating wildfires.

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During the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Parton donated a large sum to help fund research for vaccines. She was identified as a sponsor of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in 2020.

“I’m just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the COVID fund, I just wanted it to do good, and evidently it is,” she said. “Let’s just hope we find a cure real soon.”