MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Dolly Parton visits Tacoma to celebrate state launch of ‘Imagination Library’ program

Aug 15, 2023, 8:00 PM

Image: Dolly Parton arrives at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 5,...

Dolly Parton arrives at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

(Photo: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Legendary singer Dolly Parton paid a special visit to Tacoma Tuesday — but not just to belt out her famous tunes.

Rather, the songwriter and philanthropist celebrated the statewide launch of her “Imagination Library” program during an event at the Pantages Theater.

Parton didn’t disappoint her fans. After a fireside chat with Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, she sang a few favorite tunes to a crowd of close to 900 attendees, many wearing their best sequins for her. The event was private.

“I came here because I am very, very proud of the Imagination Library,” Parton said, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

Reykdal asked what advice Parton had for students and educators.

“I really think we just need to have a little more kindness, just think a little harder,” Parton said as part of  her answer, the Tacoma News Tribune reports. “Instead of just seeing what all we can do to each other, let’s see what we can do for each other.”

In honor of Parton’s visit, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed Tuesday as “Imagination Library of Washington Day.”

So far, 65,000 Washington children are enrolled and more than 1.6 million books have been gifted around the state. Washington is the 11th state to launch the program, and the first state on the West Coast to do so.

In 2022, the Washington State Legislature passed HB 2068, which expanded Imagination Library across the state as part of a collaboration with the state superintendent’s office and United Ways of the Pacific Northwest.

The bill set up a state-based nonprofit to coordinate its efforts. That nonprofit was tasked with managing daily operations for the Imagination Library in Washington, developing and promoting a public awareness campaign, and establishing more affiliate branches.

From 2022: State lawmakers approve expansion of Dolly Parton’s ‘Imagination Library’ program

For Vicky O’Keefe, a rural librarian on Orcas Island, improving access to books is essential.

“I see those children, I read to their faces every day,” O’Keefe said. “There’s nothing more precious than a bright beautiful book in the life of a child.”

And as a decades-long Dolly fan, getting to see her idol for the first time is nothing short of incredible.

“I fell in love with Dolly Parton when I heard the song ‘Here You Come Again’, I was about 18, and I’ve been following her ever since,” O’Keefe added. “And I know the power of books with children. So not only do I love her as a singer, and a human being, but as a gift-giver of books.”

Started in 1995 in Parton’s home county in East Tennessee, the Imagination Library delivers one free age-appropriate book per month to enrolled children under 5 and their families.

Families with children can sign up for the Imagination Library here (after providing the city where you reside in an online form to check the availability of the program in your area).

Previous coverage: Dolly Parton, Eminem, Lionel Richie get into Rock Hall of Fame

If you’re interested in seeing what happened in Tacoma, the recording of the event, which was live streamed, is available on the TVW website.

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest.com

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