WTF Fun Fact 13164 – Dolly Parton Books For Children

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1995. Since then, she has used the organization to donate over 182 million books to children.

Dolly Parton’s philanthropy

If you only know Dolly Parton as a country singer, you’re missing out on some of her most amazing work. Born into poverty in Tennessee, Parton has long helped kids and teens in her hometown of Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains learn to read and graduate high school.

She even donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University’s coronavirus research lab – the one that helped created the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine!

Now in her late 70s, Parton has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help people, but her literacy efforts may be among the most meaningful since she’s changed so many lives.

In 1988, she created the Dollywood Foundation to inspire children in her home region to “achieve educational success.” The foundation gives out scholarships to high school students that want to go on to (an accredited) university but can’t afford it.

The expansion of Dolly Parton’s books for children

Since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (which is part of the foundation) has been sending high-quality books (not religious tracts or cheaply-printed donations) to children up to age 5 each month. The goal is to get parents to read to kids and get kids reading early (at least until they enter school and have access to books there). As of May 2022, she’s given out over 182 million free books. A family’s income doesn’t matter – no matter how rich or poor, children can receive books if they’re under the age of 5.

Even Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos understands that Parton knows how to do good with money. That’s why in 2022 he gave her $100 million to keep going. Parton herself is the author of many books aimed at children 4 – 7 years old.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Dolly Parton receives $100 million award from Jeff Bezos: ‘I will do my best to do good things with this money” — CNBC

WTF Fun Fact 12425 – Dolly Parton’s Graduation Gift

In 1991, actress and country music legend Dolly Parton and The Dollywood Foundation decided to address the high school dropout rate in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee.

According to her website: “In the early 1990s, there was a dropout problem in Sevier County schools. Over 30% of all students never graduated a decision which not only crippled their own lives but made it increasingly difficult for Sevier County to prosper.”

Research from The Dollywood Foundation suggested that many students’ decisions about whether to graduate were rooted in their experiences in seventh and eighth grades. So it made sense to target these students for special encouragement. Parton herself suggested a monetary award.

The Buddy Program, as it came to be called, was announced to students that same year.

Her website explains: “In 1991, seventh and eighth-grade students were invited to a special assembly in the newly built Dolly Parton Celebrity Theatre at Dollywood…Dolly told the students that day she wanted each of them to choose a Buddy, and if they didn’t have a Buddy, she would find one for them. She went on to make a very special announcement: she offered to personally give $500 to each and every student in the seventh and eighth grades if they graduated from high school. However, there was one additional requirement: each student’s Buddy must graduate as well, and they had to sign a contract to pledge to do everything they could to make sure both graduated.”

The reward ensured that students would be both encouraged to graduate and stay accountable to one another in order to receive the money. And it worked!

The dropout rate went from 30% to 6%. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Dolly launches ‘The Buddy Program’ in Sevier County, Tenn., to tackle local dropout rates” —