Kids In Fort McMurray Can Once Again Receive Free Books From Dolly Parton

Maija Kappler
·Associate LIFE Editor, HuffPost Canada
·3 min read
Dolly Parton (Photo: Instagram / Dolly Parton)
Dolly Parton (Photo: Instagram / Dolly Parton)

Dolly Parton continues to represent one of the few bright spots in this otherwise miserable year — this time, by bringing free books to the children of Fort McMurray, Alta.

The country music legend’s Imagination Library monthly program delivers books to kidsfrom birth to age 5. It’s been active in Canada since 2006, but the Wood Buffalo branch hit a “funding gap” last year, a spokesperson told HuffPost Canada. The program relies on local fundraising initiatives, and when that funding dried up last October, over 1800 of the Fort McMurray kids enrolled in the program haven’t been receiving books.

But as of Wednesday, it’s back with a new corporate sponsor (Telus) and a grant from the Canadian Red Cross and Employment and Social Development Canada. Kids in the Fort McMurray area will start getting their books again as of Nov. 1.

“I am so excited to bring my Imagination Library back to the children and families of Fort McMurray!” Parton said in a press release. “It is such an important time to share the gift of books and reading with as many children as we can.”

Dolly Parton meeting with kids as she launches the Imagination Library in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, U.K., in 2007. (Photo: Rui Vieira - PA Images via Getty Images)
Dolly Parton meeting with kids as she launches the Imagination Library in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, U.K., in 2007. (Photo: Rui Vieira - PA Images via Getty Images)

Parton started the program in part because of the low literacy rates in the rural area Tennessee where she grew up. Her own father never learned to read.

“I created the Imagination Library as a tribute to my Daddy,” she wrote on the organization’s website. “He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all of his dreams.”

The Canadian book selection for Imagination Library. (Photo: Imagination Library)
The Canadian book selection for Imagination Library. (Photo: Imagination Library)

Most Canadian provinces and territories are part of the Imagination Library program, including Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Yukon. The books sent to Canadian kids include local authors and relevant topics. Some of the books on this year’s list include “The Darkest Dark,” by astronaut Chris Hadfield; a numbers book inspired by “Anne of Green Gables”; Sharon, Lois and Bram’s classic “Skinnamarink”; and “Encounter” by Anishinaabe writer Brittany Luby.

Parton is certainly going above and beyond to try to keep 2020 afloat. Earlier this week, her rendition of the folk song “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” brought talk show host Stephen Colbert to tears.

She’s also starring in an upcoming Netflix Christmas musical that will feature no fewer than 14 original songs. And earlier this month, she released “A Holly Dolly Christmas,” her first Christmas album in 30 years.

And Parton found small small many ways to try to offset some of the horrendous global events of the past year. She donated USD $1 million to COVID research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Just a few weeks into the COVID-19 lockdowns, she started reading virtual bedtime stories to kids. And she released a new song, “When Life is Good Again,” acknowledging the difficulty of what was going on but remaining optimistic about what would come next.

And in August, the infamously apolitical singer surprised fans by voicing her support for Black Lives Matter.

Of course Black lives matter,” she told Billboard. “Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.