Dolly Parton announced a new achievement Tuesday night for her Imagination Library reading program and also said she was awarding a scholarship to one special girl.
The literacy project is now giving books to 1 million children a month, Parton said. It's also about to reach the 100-million mark in total book distribution, she said.
"We’re very, very proud of the Imagination Library, started so many years ago in honor of my dad," she told the crowd at the LeConte Center. "He got to live long enough to see the Imagination Library come to be. He never got to learn to read. He thought it was great when the little kids called me the Book Lady."
Parton, who is in the middle off her "Pure & Simple" tour, also revealed that a newly enrolled Imagination Library participant from Conway, Ark., would be receiving a scholarship for $30,000 to help her one day go to college.
By the time 2-year-old Evey Johns is ready for college, the scholarship value should reach $50,000, Parton said.
Johns and her family attended Tuesday night's show, a benefit concert that raised $500,000 for Imagination Library, which hands out books to children from birth to age 5.
"We’re going to invest this money real good for you, very carefully," Parton said.
True to her word, the Sevier County native kept the show simple on stage. She mixed new music with standards such as "Jolene," which she said was a true story based on a woman her husband Carl once used to flirt with down at the bank.
"I wrote that song, it became a big hit and I made a lot of money. And I did not take that money to the bank where Jolene works. Just so you know," Parton said told the appreciative audience.
As usual, Parton cracked jokes often between tunes. At one point she paused to use a tissue because she was "a little sniffly."
"Anybody want this to sell on eBay?" she said. "Haha, you wouldn’t, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m not letting you."
Tickets for the concert have been sold out since going on sale to the general public at the start of July. Tickets went on sale to Dollywood season passholders on June 15.
Parton is embarking on her first North American concert tour in more than 25 years with a special stop in her home of Sevier County.
Imagination Library sponsorship opportunities also are available for $5,000.
Sponsorship packages include a meet & greet and photo with Parton, along with premium seats for the concert. Anyone interested in sponsorship should contact the Dollywood Foundation at email@example.com.
The Imagination Library has provided more than 80 million books in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.