Dolly Parton is taking to the Internet to do one of the things Dolly does best: make people feel good. At 7 p.m. EDT April 2, the Tennessee singer will lend her soothing voice to The Little Engine That Could, reading the children’s classic in the first installment of a ten-week YouTube series called Goodnight with Dolly.
Every week, Parton will read a children’s book in the hopes of inspiring “a love of books and shared storytime during this important period,” and providing “comfort and assurance to kids and families during the shelter-in-place mandates,” according to the series webpage. The readings join another big contribution Parton made this week: a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University’s coronavirus research. Goodnight with Dolly comes as part of Parton’s international book-gifting program, the Imagination Library, which ships free children’s books to kids up to five years of age around the globe.
Parton started the Imagination Library in 1995 as an homage to her now-deceased father, Robert Lee Parton. Though she has said she always knew she was destined for the limelight, Parton’s upbringing was anything but glamorous. The “Jolene” singer was born to a large family in a small town tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee where opportunity and education were scarce resources. Her father never attended school, and entered adulthood unable to read or write.
“That always troubled him and bothered him,” Parton said in a 2018 interview with Good Morning America. “I wanted to do something special for him, 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.’” Since those early years, the Book Lady’s passion project has given out tens of millions of books and expanded to reach children in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, in addition to the United States.