Dear Imagination Library Graduate,
My, how time flies. It seems it was only yesterday when your family and friends read you your first story. You were just a baby. Now you’re five years old and about to go to school. How exciting!
This may be your last book from my Imagination Library but you have to promise me you will keep on reading. If you go to your local public library you will find a great number of books just for kids your age. Every book is a treasure and every time you open one up you will meet new friends and take wonderful journeys to magical places.
I hope you have a great time in school. I bet your school will even have a library where you can check out books. You and all of your friends are very special. There is no limit to what you can do or how far you can go. Just remember the lessons my family taught me – dream big dreams; learn everything you can learn; and care for all those who care for you. You do all of these things and you can be anyone you want to be.
You are terrific, and remember…
I Will Always Love You,
This is the letter from Country Music Legend Dolly Parton on the first page of the 60th and last book given to each child from her Imagination Library. Most of us know Dolly Parton from her decades of music, books, and films, but Dolly comes from very humble beginnings in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Her life story is a true Cinderella story and is nothing short of amazing; one of twelve children born to a tobacco farmer living in a one room cabin. A replica of this cabin resides at Dolly Parton’s themepark, Dollywood, the largest employer in the county and host to over 2.5 million visitors each year.
Dolly never forgot her home and her family. I live in Knoxville, TN; about an hour from Dollywood thanks to traffic. Having worked at a local hospital, I know Dolly is known to regulary visit hospitalized family members (which there are many). Perhaps much less known, Dolly gives back to her community in many ways mostly through the Dollywood Foundation. This includes the largest bald eagle sanctuary in the country located at Dollywood.
Dolly’s Imagination Library started small with a simple goal: give each child in her home county a free book each month from birth to age 5. The idea quickly took off. In 2000, the program was opened up to any community willing to support it. In 2004, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen started Books from Birth, expanding the Imagination Library statewide. Within a couple of years, research began to accumulate showing the impacts Imagination Library has on families and the learning skills of the children (check here).
My daughter has looked forward to each new book each month and I know many children feel the same way. Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, children’s dreams, imagination, and creativity are nurtured and celebrated while increasing each child’s love of reading and learning. These combined give me hope these children can do much more with their lives than us.