Dolly Parton’s Sister Defends Her After a Senator’s Comments: ‘I’m Outraged’

Dolly Parton stays out of politics, but her sister Stella Parton has no problem addressing lawmakers head-on. When a Kentucky State Senator expressed concern about the subject matter of some of Parton’s Imagination Library books, Stella stepped in. She took to social media to express her disappointment and condemn the Senator in defense of her sister.

Dolly Parton wears a multicolored coat and holds her arm around Stella Parton's shoulder. Stella Parton wears a black leather jacket.
Dolly Parton and Stella Parton | JB Lacroix/WireImage

Dolly Parton started her Imagination Library to promote childhood literacy

In 1995, Parton launched the Imagination Library, a program that provides millions of children under the age of five with free books. 

“Inspiring kids to love to read became my mission,” Parton wrote on the program’s official website. “In the beginning, my hope was simply to inspire the children in my home county but here we are today with a worldwide program that gives a book a month to well over 1 million children.”

Parton created the program as a tribute to her father, who could not read.

“He was the smartest man I have ever known but I know in my heart his inability to read probably kept him from fulfilling all of his dreams,” she wrote.

Her sister Stella Parton defended her after a senator questioned the program

In 2022, Kentucky State Senators debated a bill that would create a state partnership with the Imagination Library. Senator Stephen Meredith acknowledged that the proposed bill included language that required the books to be “age-appropriate” for the under-five audience but wondered if that was enough.

“I think that certainly is warranted, given today’s environment,” he said, per the Louisville Courier-Journal. “But I wonder if that’s enough. You know, should it be subject-appropriate as well? Because I have seen some literature that’s considered preschool that … I think is inappropriate content for children that age.”

Stella Parton took to social media to express her anger at the insinuation that the Imagination Library would provide children with inappropriate books.

“I’m outraged this morning that anyone, let alone a GOP Sen. Meredith from the great state of Ky. Would question my sister Dolly or even insinuate something sinister about the ‘Imagination Library’ program for children,” she wrote. “Appalachian people have been maligned as uneducated and to have a Senator from an Appalachian state even think much less say anything derogatory about this incredible program is appalling.”

Stella acknowledged that her older sister has always kept her political beliefs quiet, but she felt that she had to say something. 

“My big sister stays out of politics but this is an outrage!!” she wrote. “I would like to see your IQ score Sen. Meredith along with at least a dozen more of you GOP nimrods. The next thing you know, you will be trying to burn children’s books!”

Meredith shared that he was “disappointed” by Stella’s response. Ultimately, though, he voted in favor of the measure.

Dolly Parton says local organizations are the key to the Imagination Library’s success

Though the Imagination Library was Parton’s idea, she shared that it became successful because of local organizations. 

“The real heroes of our story are the thousands of local organizations who have embraced my dream and made it their own,” she wrote. “They raise millions of dollars each year and wake up every day with a passion to make sure their kids have every opportunity to succeed.”

She shared that there’s always room to keep expanding through programs like the Kentucky state partnership so that more children can grow up with books.

“It’s been quite a journey but we have so much more left to do,” she explained. “I would love for your community to join our family so please take the time to explore our website. Let’s share this dream that all children should grow up in a home full of books.”

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