“It makes me feel proud of who I am, where I'm from and the fact that I am in a position to help people and especially the kids,” Parton said of the milestone for her nonprofit, Imagination Library. “It's so important to me because if you can teach children to read they can dream and if you dream you can be successful.”
Alongside Carla Hayden, who heads the Library of Congress, the iconic country singer dedicated the 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the research library. Through the nonprofit, she has been donating millions of books to children for more than 20 years.
Parton also helped kick off a new initiative between the Imagination Library and the Library of Congress, in which a book will be read during a live-stream and shared with libraries across the U.S.
The award-winning singer and philanthropist read her children's book "Coat of Many Colors" to children in the audience at Tuesday's event.
"I did take a lot of pride in this today," she said. "Not only for myself but also for my dad and all the little kids out there that are benefiting [from the nonprofit]."
“Yesterday when we put the book in the Library of Congress -- I really felt like mom and daddy was just up there looking down thinking, ‘You go.’ So I felt really proud that I could honor momma and daddy,” Parton said.
Parton, who grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee, told Hayden that she started the program in 1996 as a tribute to her father. She said he was a hardworking man but had not attended school or learned to read and write.
“My daddy couldn't read and write and that always troubled him and bothered him so I wanted to do something special for him,” Parton said. “So I got the idea to start this program and let my dad help me with it and he got to live long enough to hear the kids call me the ‘book lady.’”
Parton said her family only had one book in the house as she was growing up: The Bible. She said her mother read it and told stories from it to her and her 11 siblings.
"[It was the] first book that we had in our home and the one that meant the most," she said.
Parton said that as a child, she loved to read fairy tales. She said she now reads at least 52 books a year.
"I love to read," she said. "Books have always been a really special thing to me."
Parton got her father involved in Imagination Library and they set out to give books to the children in their county. Now, Imagination Library, which sends books to children monthly, has fans all over the world. Parton said she was happy that her father had lived long enough to see the program blossom.
As part of the Imagination Library, parents can sign children up and a book is mailed monthly to their home until they enter kindergarten. Parton said she'd even received letters from children who'd "graduated" from the program expressing sadness that they'd no longer receive books.
She called Imagination Library "one of the most precious things" she'd done in her life.
"It kind of inspires you to dream," Parton said of reading. "If you can dream, that'll lead you to success and to other things. ... So it's important to get the books in the hands of all these special little kids so they can start early."