I find it hard not to like Dolly Parton.
First, though, over to Sölvesborg in the southeastern corner of Sweden. According to Teskedsorden – which basically is an organisation that wants to do good things, even if it is a teaspoonful at a time – the political parties on the right came up with the idea of saving money by not letting its libraries order books in the many mother-tongues of the town.
In fairness, I have to say I’ve not been able to find out whether this decision was carried through, and many people doubted the legality of it all. But to go against the knowledge that letting children read in their first language as well as in Swedish benefits them in how well they will do in life, is plain wrong.
Then we come to Dolly. To stop the high school dropout rate in her Tennessee home town, she essentially bribed the fifth and sixth graders (in 1990) to complete high school. They were to pick a buddy, and if both of the children graduated high school she’d pay them $500. It worked. It still works, apparently.
The next thing she did was to pay for teaching assistants in every first grade for two years, with an agreement that the school system would continue with this if successful.
And then Dolly founded the Imagination Library (in 1995), sending a book every month to every child in her home county of Sevier from when they were born until they started kindergarten. This has now spread to all of the US and to Australia, Canada and the UK.
That’s more than 100 million books, from the child of a man who couldn’t read or write.