For more than 50 years, Dolly Parton has been writing and singing songs that have become the very fiber of the American songbook. Her tales in verse of her Great Smoky Mountains upbringing and deep family values of Tennessee have become known by heart worldwide. Dolly Parton never had children of her own, but she has left a legacy to the children of the world that will endure as long as her most beloved ballads. Her Imagination Library has distributed 100 million books over the globe, literally placing them in the hands and the homes of young children.

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The initiative began as a loving tribute to her father, who never learned to read while raising a family of 12.

At 71, Dolly is doing more than ever, and her latest musical project is a children's album “I Believe in You” to benefit her literacy efforts. She's not neglecting her goddaughter Miley Cyrus, in music or in catching up on chats, and she’s not saying “no” to “9 to 5” movie sequel.

Pennies produce readers

Parton was adamant this weekend for a segment on TBN’s “Huckabee” and this morning, October 16, on “Today ” that “every penny of the proceeds” from her new album “will go to put more books in the hands of children.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame member is faithful and philosophical about not having children of her own, relating that “it was probably God's plan for me not to have kids so everybody's kids could be mine.

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“ That foreseen vision has become reality, she is so beloved by children who don't know or cannot yet say her name that they know her only as “Dolly Partner, the Book Lady,” and that fits just fine for Dolly Parton.

The singer-songwriter recently had a heart-wrenching encounter from a little boy about to turn six, saying he didn't want his birthday to come because no more Imagination Library books would be coming in the mail. Dolly comforted him by saying that he likely would have a brother or sister arriving soon, per mother's info, so more books would come.

The effort is designed to give preschool children exposure to quality literature in the home, to foster literacy and love of reading before access to a school library begins. Among Parton's dearest possessions are notes from “her children” through Imagination Library who write to announce that they have graduated from high school and college because she inspired them to read.

Songs from the heart

Rolling Stone credited the songs of “I Believe in You” as some of the “catchiest” the songwriter has created in her acclaimed career.

Although aiming to write singable songs for children, parents, and grandparents, Dolly also broached topics that are real to children's lives today, There are songs with anti-bullying themes, and songs like “Chemo Hero” to inspire children and families facing cancer. “Brave Little Soldier” is another that encompasses a message of resilience, whether children are battling disability, illness, or finding themselves as gay or transgender—Dolly wants them to know they are not alone, and they win in life.

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One of Dolly's favorite collaborators has always been her singing, songwriting goddaughter, Miley Cyrus. The song “Rainbowland” from Miley’s newly released album, “Younger Now” is an exuberant anthem of what unity and acceptance can achieve if given the chance. Both kindred artists have such busy schedules that they contributed much of the writing and vocals while going here and there and chatting by phone. “We talk forever,” the doting grandmother confesses.

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The introduction and the close of the album track feature Dolly talking about the song, and how she will come through and write the love song about “some boy you love” if the song doesn't work out. The teasing laughter is luscious, and so purely real, and so is the sentiment of the song. Dolly was surprised that the phone call snippets were included on the album.

Dolly was asked about a much-desired sequel to “9 to 5,” and she had the perfect retort. “We better call it ‘95’” exclaimed the singer, noting that she and her co-stars are not getting any younger.

Age is just a number, and Dolly Parton's music and mission is ageless, spanning from Sevier County to space, where her songs are still heard.

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