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Imagination Library reaches 100-million-book milestone

Jared Felkins • Updated Mar 4, 2018 at 10:00 AM

From its infancy in Sevier County to the largest children’s literacy program in the world, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has introduced millions of children around the globe to the fun of reading. 

Parton enshrined the 100-millionth book distributed in the program’s existence Tuesday into the Library of Congress.

In addition to the extraordinary moment for Parton, the Imagination Library and Librarian of Congress’ Carla Hayden announced a monthly reading program for young readers at the Library of Congress.

“I always like to say that 100 million books have led to 100 million stories,” Parton said. “I am so honored that our little program has now grown to such a point that we can partner with the Library of Congress to bring even more stories to children across the country.”

From March to August, the Library of Congress will hold story time in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building the last Friday of each month. Each story time will feature the reading of a book for readers 5 and younger, music and special guests. 

The programs will also be live-streamed so children and parents anywhere with an internet connection can join the fun. The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, has more than 160 million items catalogued.

Fittingly, the 100-millionth book from the Imagination Library is Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors.” Written by Parton, the book is an adaptation of her iconic song of the same name. Both the book and the song encourage children – and adults – to look past superficial appearances to the true heart of an individual. Much like the legacy of her Imagination Library, Parton used her humble childhood upbringing as motivation for a career of accomplishments that are without equal.

The Imagination Library, which now distributes 1 million books every month, mails free books to children from birth to 5 years old in participating communities within the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Wilson Books from Birth has mailed 627,281 books to Wilson County children since the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was replicated in September 2005 as Wilson Books from Birth.

The current Wilson County enrollment is 5,817 children or 79.49 percent of the eligible 5 years old and younger population.  Wilson County is in the top tier of counties across the state at near 80 percent enrollment of the population.

According to Wilson Books from Birth executive director Peggy Simpson, 11,272 children graduated the program or celebrated their fifth birthday and entered kindergarten.

‘This week was quite a milestone for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library,” said Simpson. “The program grows every month right here in Wilson County. We have a remarkable group of community volunteers working to fulfill our mission to foster a love of learning and reading in all Wilson County preschool children.”

Wilson Books from Birth has provided the gift of free books to more than 17,000 children in Wilson County.

“Dolly Parton’s work through her Imagination Library is awe-inspiring,” Hayden said. “They have counted the number of books given away – 100 million, but there is no way to truly quantify the impact this program has had on developing young readers across America and in other parts of the world. This is an extraordinary gift to humankind. The Library of Congress shares this passion for developing young readers, and I am so pleased to announce these cooperative programs, which will provide an opportunity for children anywhere to connect with a fun, engaging reading experience.”

The story times will take place the last Friday of each month for six months through August. The events are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

The programs will also be live-streamed on the Library’s Facebook page at facebook.com/libraryofcongress and its YouTube site with captions at youtube.com/libraryofcongress.

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