Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Is Coming to California in 2023, Sending Free Books to Kids Under Age 5

Dolly Parton's Book Campaign
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has given away nearly 200 million books.Getty

Miss Dolly Parton, also known as the Book Lady, is bringing free books to California as part of her Imagination Library foundation.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is coming to California, bringing free books once a month to children under the age of 5.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement this week. "Starting in June 2023, every California child under the age of 5 will be able to receive a free book in the mail, every month, thanks to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library expansion to California!" the governor tweeted.

The beloved country star has given away more than 197 million books to young children since starting her literacy campaign in 1995. 

Her foundation estimates that one in 10 American children under 5 have received Imagination Library books.

The selection of available books include classics such as "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and "The Snowy Day." It also features Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," based on her hit song that was a testament to her mother's thrift and resourcefulness in making a coat from scraps.

The singer-songwriter, who now calls herself "The Book Lady," began her book effort as a tribute to her father, who never learned to read or write in the hills of east Tennessee where her family lived.

“I always thought that if Daddy had an education, there’s no telling what he could have been,” she wrote in her 2020 book, "Songteller: My Life in Lyrics."

"Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bargain. He knew how to make everything work, and he knew how to count money," she wrote. "He knew exactly what everything was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobacco crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work."

Children were expected to work, and couldn't go to school, she wrote. Her father came from a family of 15.

"Kids had to go to work in the fields to help feed the family. Because of the weather and because of conditions, a lot of kids couldn’t go to school," she said.

"I told him, 'Daddy, there are probably millions of people in this world who don’t know how to read and write, who didn’t get the opportunity. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let’s do something special,'" she said.

Her youth literacy work is probably the best thing she's ever done, her father told her.

Originally available only in Sevier County, Tennessee, her program is now available to more than 2 million children in the U.S., Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and Canada.

To receive a free book each month until the age of 5, when most children start school, kids only have to be registered with the Imagination Library's service program.

"If you can read, you can educate yourself about any subject," Parton told an interviewer in 2017. "You don’t have to have money. If you can’t afford to go to school, there’s a book on every subject. It’s not going to do you any good if you can’t read."

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