Gavin Newsom Has Just Made Dolly Parton's Dream Of Child Literacy Come True

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The term "giving back" gets overused a lot, but in the case of Dolly Parton, it's a way of life. The iconic country star grew up in poverty in rural Tennessee, sharing a two-room cabin with her parents and 11 siblings. Those days of scraping by are long gone, but Parton has never forgotten her roots, and her joy comes from helping others in need. Over the years, she has helped disaster victims, high school students with college dreams, hospitalized children, and bald eagles, just to name a few causes (per Billboard). 

But one of Parton's most cherished causes is literacy. As she has explained, "[M]y Daddy...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." Determined to help children achieve their own dreams, Parton began donating books to children in her birthplace of Sevier County, and from there, the Imagination Library was born. The award-winning program, which has expanded to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and Australia, provides free books to children from birth to age five, helping to ensure a lifelong love of reading.

The Imagination Library works through partnerships with local affiliates, meaning that sponsors organize in their area and raise the necessary funds, which comes to $2.10 per registered child per month. Depending on the location, that can run to six figures or more. That's not an issue any more in California, thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom.

Millions of California children will get books every month

In a show of bipartisanship, the California legislature just passed a bill to fund Dolly Parton's Imagination Library for the entire state. Governor Gavin Newsom gladly signed the bill into law on October 1, and the program will launch in June 2023.

As the Imagination Library website explains, only 1% of California children currently participate in the program: This law will now make it possible for all 2.4 million kids in the Golden State to get a free monthly book from birth through kindergarten age. That's a potential 144 million books (!) over the course of the first five years alone. The library supplies a variety of age-appropriate titles, including classics like "The Little Engine That Could," new favorites featuring Llama Llama and Peppa Pig, and of course titles written by Parton herself, such as "I Am a Rainbow."

In a statement she shared on the site, Parton enthused, "I'm so thrilled at the overwhelming support to make my Imagination Library available to every child in California!" She thanked the governor, along with bill sponsors Senator Shannon Grove and Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, for making the dream possible. "Today is an amazing milestone for children and families across the state! We still have a lot of work to do, but together we can inspire a love of reading in children across California that will last a lifetime."