What Are You Reading? Dolly Parton Edition

By Arieh Ress, Adult Librarian
May 30, 2018
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)
Dolly Parton reading The Little Engine that Could

Photo courtesy of The Imagination Library

Many celebrities support libraries and literacy, but perhaps none more prolifically than Dolly Parton. The country music legend started The Imagination Library in 1995, providing free books to children around the world.

By 2016, the organization was sending out one million books a month. This past February, the 100 millionth book from The Imagination Library was dedicated, this time to the Library of Congress. Hearing of this amazing achievement, I reached out to Dolly Parton through the organization and conducted this quick interview with the country music and songwriting legend.

Dumplin' Cover

What are you reading at the moment or what is next on your list?

At the moment, I am all into the book Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. When I first read the book, I just loved it and this year, I was given the opportunity to write the music for the movie based on the book. I am deep into writing and recording the songs for the soundtrack, so it is consuming me right now. It’s an exciting project and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

What books or other media do you keep coming back to again and again?

To tell you the truth, the book I return to time and time again is the Bible. I was raised on reading the Bible so it has been a part of life most each and every day.

The Bible

What book or other media most contributed to who you are and how far you’ve come?

Asking me about my favorite book is like asking a mother who is her favorite child. I might know but I ain’t telling! I can tell you that The Little Engine That Could has always been a special book for me—so special I decided to create my Imagination Library around it.

Imagination Library is an amazing model for literacy-focused philanthropy, and you recently donated your 100 millionth book. Congratulations and thank you for this amazing feat! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

The Little Engine that Could cover

It was a tribute to my Daddy. He was such a smart man but he could not read or write. I saw how he struggled and I thought I should do something that would inspire kids to love reading and to love learning. He never had anyone that inspired him in such a way and, even if he did, he had to spend all of his time making a living for all of us.
I thought if we could give books to children through the mail with their name on it, books would always be a joyful moment. And if we could string together a whole bunch of joyful moments, we just might be successful in inspiring a child to love books.

Do you have a go-to album (yours or otherwise) for when you curl up with a good book?

There you go asking me about my favorites again. I spend more time writing music than I do listening to it!

What celebrities or public figures are you curious about?
Whose book list would you like to read?
Let us know in the comments!

Also, be sure to check out our April interview with author and commentator Sally Kohn.