Everyone knows that I am all about books – reading books, talking about books, finding books, recommending books and sharing books! Last night, I took a break from books and joined thousands of fans including my colleagues on the local Imagination Library Committee to hear the talented Dolly Parton belt out some tunes and share some heartfelt stories about her life. I have to admit that I have never been a country music fan but I was in awe of her strong voice, energy and ability to pay multiple instruments. We had a great time listening to a popular playlist spanning almost 3 hours and ranging from country, bluegrass, folk and pop music.
What many of you may not know is that in 1995, Dolly Parton created The Imagination Library, in her hometown in Tennessee. It was her goal to share her love of reading with pre-school children by helping them build their own libraries by mailing them books to their home each month. As Dolly spoke of the Imagination Library she honoured her father for inspiring this wonderful program. Although he didn’t know how to read, he was the most intelligent man she ever met. She shared how proud he was when children called her the “book lady” and her website notes that she has shared more than 70 million books with children across the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia.
Dolly shared how poor her family had been, living in a one room shack in the Blue Mountains, four to a bed yet she highlighted the love and care that filled her family. She not only spoke of her hardworking father but of her Mama who “would sit and sign and tell us stories” saying that she “would paint these pictures” with her voice when they didn’t have a television or movies. Painting pictures is what Dolly has done with her songs and she told us the story of how much she loved the Coat of Many Colours that her Mama had lovingly made for her as a girl.
Dolly showed her appreciation for her fans in Canada, commented on the beautiful night (except for the bugs) and showed her sense of humour. She had the audience laughing when she suggested that she should run for president as she certainly had the hair and that maybe more boobs were needed in the race!
I admire Dolly’s energy and commitment to both music, her songwriting and to sharing her love of reading with children by ensuring that they have their own library of books. Ontario’s Premier Wynne was lucky enough to meet Dolly and I hope that she is busy considering how to support this fantastic, economic program to help children to learn and grow!