LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — From every corner of the state, Arkansans flooded the ballroom of the governor's mansion to see the legend and recent Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Dolly Parton speak.
Alongside those Arkansans in attendance, were volunteers who have committed themselves to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which aims at increasing child literacy.
Dolly was introduced by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, with the crowd greeting her with standing ovation. After presenting her with a certificate, Hutchinson declared it Dolly Parton Imagination Library Day throughout Arkansas.
The governor himself even received a cool gift-- a framed copy of a children's book that Dolly loves to sing from.
Following Dolly's emphatic introduction, Dolly began her interview with our very own Craig O'Neill, providing the crowd with a refresher course on how the Imagination Library works.
"What we do is we give books to children from the time they're born until they start school. We put their little names on it and put the books in the mailbox. They're excited about that," Parton said. "They usually grab somebody in the family to read with them but it is my belief that if you can read, that you can self educate yourself."
Parton even shared the inspiration behind the Imagination Library, mentioning her father as a key factor.
"The reason I started this whole program was because of my Daddy. We grew up in a rural area, we were mountain people, poor people, and my dad didn't get a chance to go to school. Daddy couldn't read or write but he was such a smart man," she said.
Craig and Dolly even touched on motivation behind her visit to Arkansas. Well, it was to celebrate the volunteers at the libraries and the fact that there's an Imagination Library in every single county in Arkansas.
"I think that's wonderful. We were so excited coming here knowing that. We're just hoping to do that all over the country before we're finished, but we're doing so well," Parton said. "We actually have already given out 185 million books and we're hoping by the first of this next year we'll be up to 200 million. We mail out 2 million books a month and we're just so proud of that because of people like you [audience]. We're grateful."
Dolly said that children in the program are provided with books every single month from the moment that they're born, up until the age of 5. She said that the process behind the library is personal and that she knows how important those early years are for development.
"I'm from a family of 12 children. Momma and daddy had 12--6 boys and 6 girls," Parton said. "So, I know how important little things are to children and how you do teach them in your very early years."
Dolly's visit wasn't all about the library though. She spoke about a concert of hers where she donned a Hog Hat during a duet with Kenny Rogers in Arkansas.
"I came out on the stage, the spotlight hit me and there I am in my dress and my big ol' pig sooie and everybody was saying, 'sooie!," she said.
The night ended with Dolly performing for the crowd, but before she began to sing, she chatted about what the future could have in store.
"I may do a Rock & Roll album. Well, I guess you've seen all that controversy about the Rock & Roll [Hall of Fame] but anyway, at some point I might. Right now I'm working on a Christmas movie, a Christmas musical special," she said.
It was a magical night filled with great conversation, laughter, and sweet music from Dolly herself.
"I've dreamed myself into a corner, and I have to be responsible for all those dreams that have come true thanks to you [audience]," Parton said.