Michael Q. McShane

A data point came across my twitter feed the other day that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. I was vaguely familiar with country superstar Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a nonprofit organization she started that gives books to needy children. But I had no idea just how huge it is.

In a blog post on the organization’s website, the Imagination Library announced that to date they have distributed 92,919,139 books and are currently distributing them at a rate of over 1 million books per month. One million a month! Incredible.

So how does she do it? The Imagination Library partners with local organizations and provides all of the necessary administrative support as long as local funders can be recruited to help cover the cost of buying books (about $25 per child per year). With that, any child in the geographic area that the local partners identify can get a monthly shipment of age-appropriate books for free.

The roaring success of the Imagination Library is a story of America’s vibrant civil society, that diverse patchwork of individuals, families, nonprofits, religious organizations, and social organizations that shape our communities and contribute to our well-being. A vibrant society is one that leverages the civil society and celebrates and cooperates with the charitable work of folks like Dolly Parton.

One of the reasons I support school choice is because it involves partnership with the civil society (nonprofit charter school management operators and religious organizations operating schools that could educate voucher-receiving students are just two examples) to help children. This cooperation ties us together and helps us work with each other to help other members of our community.

Dolly Parton is more than a pretty face and a talented singer. She, and the organization that she founded, are part of the fabric of our country.

About the Author

Michael McShane

Mike McShane is the Director of Education Policy for the Show-Me Institute. He is a former high school teacher and earned his PhD in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to the Show-Me Institute, Mike worked at the American Enterprise Institute as a research fellow.