Dolly Parton: A Friend of Education

West Virginia welcomed Dolly Parton to the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences on August 9, 2022, to celebrate the statewide participation of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Marshall University’s June Harless Center, in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Education, partnered with the Dollywood Foundation to provide every child from birth to age five access to books at no cost to West Virginia families through the Imagination Library program. The WVEA Foundation was a sponsor of the event and helped build a home library for 80 West Virginia children.

Earlier this summer, NEA presented Dolly Parton with their “Friend of Education Award” for her work. “Dolly Parton is a national treasure,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “In addition to bringing incalculable joy to fans across the world, she has championed literacy, learning and diversity in literature for nearly half a century. In distributing more than 2 million books each month, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has poured a cup of ambition for millions of young children.”

During the event, the West Virginia Department of Education gave Dolly a hand-crafted wooden statue with the Imagination Library seal created by students from the Nicholas County Technical Center. Governor Jim Justice issued a proclamation designating August 9 as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Day. Dolly also had a “fireside chat” about her program, hosted by the Marshall University President Brad Smith. She told President Smith that she created the program with her father. “He never had the chance to go to school. He was from a big old family like us. When he was young, they lived so far back, they had to actually go work on the farm in order to feed everybody else. The schoolhouse was miles away. At least, it felt like it, I’m sure,” she said.

Dolly said her father was embarrassed by not knowing how to read or write. “I thought, I have the opportunity to do something good here,” she added. Dolly continued, “My dad got to live long enough to see it come to fruition. He was so proud.” The Imagination Library began in 1995 and is now available in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties through the West Virginia Department of Education and Marshall University’s June Harless Center.

You can watch the entire event that was streamed live on August 9th by the West Virginia Public Broadcasting at youtube.com/watch?v=ZAdc8NRUA70.

Helping our children achieve
Established in 1993 by WVEA members, the West Virginia Foundation for the Improvement of Education (WVFIE) funds are dedicated to helping teachers, and others whose work is essential to the learning community, attain the resources to make a difference in students’ lives. WVFIE, also referred to as the WVEA Foundation, is an independent tax-exempt foundation dedicated to securing financial resources and using them effectively in responding to the education needs of at-risk children.

Would you like to give the gift of reading?
The June Harless Center has been working as a fundraising arm for the Imagination Library program to help in meeting the long-term goal, which is to ensure that every child in West Virginia has access to age-appropriate books prior to entering school. To give the gift of reading, go to marshall.edu/juneharless/imaginationlibrary.