Dolly Parton’s passions run deeper than country music. The legendary singer revealed that her greatest passion is also literacy. Dolly has become an advocate for literacy. She recalled many families in her rural neighborhood of Tennessee not bringing their children to school. Many of Dolly’s friends and neighbors had to work instead of pursuing an education.
“Kids had to go to the fields and work to help support all of these big families.”
Illiteracy runs deep in Parton’s family. Her own father was illiterate, according to CNN.
“My own father didn’t get a chance to go to school. He couldn’t read and write, and that hindered him a great deal because he was so smart. It really bothered him a lot.”
Back in 1995, Parton started the Imagination Library in honor of her father. The charity sends free books to preschool children every month. The Imagination Library has since distributed 85 million books to the U.S., the UK, Canada, and Australia.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million American adults are illiterate. It’s a shocking statistic that has caused Dolly Parton to help those who can’t read or write and to keep faith with her father, who died in 2000.
“If you can read, you can self-educate,” she said. “My dad was so proud when the kids would get the books. He was prouder of that than probably my great success in show business.”
Dolly Parton was honored at the 50th annual Country Music Awards on Wednesday night, Nov. 2. She earned the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and was honored by Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, and Kacey Musgraves, who all sang a rendition of Parton’s classic songs. Parton’s tribute also included some special words from her friend Lily Tomlin.
“I would have cried, but I didn’t want to mess up my eyelashes,” Parton said and giggled to the press, according to The Standard.
Jennifer Nettles and Pentatonix kicked things off with a cover of “Jolene.” Reba McEntire belted “9 to 5” while Kacey Musgraves sang “Here You Come Again.” To close out the special show, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride performed “I will Always Love You.” Parton might not have wanted to ruin her eyelashes, but she was moved to tears by the performance, according to E! News.
“This is such a great compliment. This is a wonderful, wonderful night for me so thank you for all of that,” she shared onstage. “I just want to thank all my fans and everybody for letting my little girl dreams come true.”
Parton celebrated another milestone. Earlier this year, Parton and her husband, Carl Dean, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on May 30. In an exclusive interview with People, the country star admitted that they renewed their vows.
“We’re going to get married again! I’ll have a beautiful wedding dress, ’cause I didn’t have a big, long wedding dress when we got married and we’ve got a suit for him, so we’re going to dress up and take a bunch of pictures.”
Parton sold the wedding photos to benefit her Imagination Literacy charity, an idea that originally “shocked” her husband, but he was supportive of it. In fact, her husband has always been supportive of both her charity and her career.
“My husband is a loner,” she says, of Dean, who rarely goes on the red carpet with his wife. “He doesn’t particularly care about being around anybody but me. He’s just always asked me to leave him out of all this. He does not like all the hullabaloo.”
Then, she added, “he’s always been supportive. He’s like a brother and a father and a friend and a husband and a lover – all of those things to me. I think he’s kind of proud that we’ve been in it this long!”
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]