Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which began as a small community outreach in Parton’s native Sevier County, Tennessee, has evolved to become the largest literacy program in the world. In December, the “little literacy program that could” marks another impressive milestone—one million books gifted to children around the world each month.
To celebrate the unprecedented success, Evey Johns, a two-year-old from Conway, Arkansas who just enrolled in the Imagination Library, has been randomly selected to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. The announcement was made by Parton during her Pure & Simple concert tour stop in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on Nov. 15. Proceeds from the concert benefit the Imagination Library.
“I thought long and hard about the best way to honor our achievement of reaching a million children a month,” Parton said. “The Imagination Library is all about inspiring dreams, so what better way to pay tribute to this moment than by helping one special child pursue her college degree. I’m thrilled that today I can let the world know that precious little Evey Johns from Conway, Arkansas will receive a $30,000 scholarship for the college of her choice.”
The scholarship will be held in a special account and distributed to Johns when she enrolls in college. Over the next 16 years, the amount of scholarship should grow to nearly approximately $50,000. Johns is enrolled in the Imagination Library in Conway thanks to the local affiliate in her area, Arkansas Preschool Plus.
“The thought of our daughter Evey going to college has been just that—a thought,” explained Evey’s mother, Connie. “Now, due to the enormous kindness and generosity of the Dollywood Foundation, that thought has now become a reality. Our family now has the means to develop a solid plan for our daughter’s future education. Thank you all so much for this unbelievable opportunity for our daughter.”
In 2016, the Imagination Library and its local partners will gift nearly 11.5 million books to children from birth to age five in participating communities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. To date, the Imagination Library, which is administered through the Dollywood Foundation, has provided more than 85 million books to children around the world.
Arkansas Preschool Plus is just one of the many local affiliates the Dollywood Foundation works with to provide books to children. To provide the Imagination Library, a community must make the program accessible to all preschool children in their area, and the community pays for the books, promotes the program and registers the children. The Dollywood Foundation manages the delivery of books to children’s homes.
Arkansas Preschool Plus enrolls 960 children in Conway, Faulkner and Perry Counties. Currently, nearly 15,000 children are enrolled in Arkansas. The Imagination Library currently is working with elected officials, foundations and corporations in Arkansas in an effort to make the program available to all children from birth to age five in the state.