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Dolly Parton to celebrate statewide early literacy program

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Photo courtesy of Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Photo courtesy of Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Musician and philanthropist Dolly Parton will be visiting Washington state on August 15 to celebrate her Imagination Library achieving statewide coverage. In Washington alone, the library sends its 65,000 current enrollees — children under the age of 5 — one book each month, and has surpassed 1.6 million books so far.

"This is such a magnificent moment and achievement!" said Brooke Fisher-Clark, executive director of the Imagination Library of Washington. "Now we take a moment to celebrate and continue igniting support and enthusiasm around this for future generations."

Gov. Jay Inslee and Lt. Gov. Denny Heck have announced they will proclaim August 15 "Imaginary Library of Washington Day" to honor the occasion.

"We welcome the great Dolly Parton to celebrate our statewide program and promote registration for our youngest learners into the Imagination Library," Inslee said. "It is important to get high-quality books to children from a young age and ensure that their families, and their unique races, ethnicities, and identities are well represented among the selection of books."

Parton's program is also active across Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, but it started in her home area of Sevier County, Tennessee, and was inspired by her father, who was illiterate. Its Washington state branch was sponsored through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Children, Youth, & Families, and is administered by United Ways of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo courtesy of Dolly Parton Imagination Library  

Although Parton's event is invite-only, it will be streamed live on TVW and the Imagination Library of Washington's social media. It will include a fireside chat and a short performance, and will highlight the efforts of the people making Washington state coverage possible.

"It's been an honor to support the expansion of early literacy across Washington," said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. "By providing free books to our youngest learners, the Imagination Library is breaking down barriers to skills that will support Washington children for a lifetime."

Parton might be most readily recognized for "9 to 5," a song originally recorded for a 1980 comedy film of the same name, and one that has since become a kind of feminist anthem for the working woman. More recently, it has been used as a walk-in theme for politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.

Whether at the Oscars, on talk shows, or performing on stage, Parton has been famously accepting and uncontroversial despite her roots in rural Tennessee and the suggestive themes in her music and humor. She has chalked this up to being an entertainer first and foremost, whose job it is to help people feel welcome.

When asked about the LGBTQ+ community, she has repeatedly said in interviews that judgment is God's job, and that she believes we're on this earth to be who we truly are and to love each other.

Her policy of tolerance has historically meant she has hesitated to speak out against controversial figures like Donald Trump, though in February of 2021, she told TODAY that she refused the now-former president's Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, citing her husband being ill and a case of COVID as her reasons. She also refused the award when it was offered by President Joe Biden.

"Now I feel like if I take it, I'll be doing politics, so I'm not sure," Parton said. "I don't work for those awards. It'd be nice, but I'm not sure that I even deserve it. But that's a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it."