Dolly Parton, The Walton’s And Books (Yes, They Are Connected)

There’s an episode of The Walton’s where Olivia makes an impulse buy – a collection of fifty Harvard Classic books from a traveling salesman.

It’s a terrible extravagance for an Appalachian family in the throes of the Depression but Olivia saw it as an investment in her family’s future. It’s moving to see how John Boy handles the books with reverence and joy. These are true gifts that are his access to learning and his own private gateway to the world outside his home on Walton’s Mountain.

It set me to thinking about books, reading and how important they are to me. I would rather buy a book than lunch (thankfully I don’t have to make that choice) and would rather read than do most anything else (I do often have to forgo reading for real life). The thought of life with limited access to books is distressing.

What’s more distressing is the lack of access many kids have to books and reading help at home. Families both rich and poor often don’t prioritize reading to their youngsters or providing them book access even to free books from the library.

Dolly Parton has a wonderful program that provides youngsters with free story books every month for the first five years of life. The program began in her home county in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains and has grown to the rest of the nation and four other countries.

The program has given away millions of books.

Her own father never learned to read and she knows all too well what it’s like to grow up doing without basic needs, much less luxuries like books. Gifting children age appropriate books during their formative years improves literacy rates, sharpens young imaginations and gives kids access to the world.

It’s a pretty special program.

Want to find out if kids in your community qualify for Dolly’s Imagination Library? Click here for details.