Inspired by a love of Dolly Parton and books, a nonprofit is spreading the gift of literacy.
Based out of Austin, Texas, 9 to 5 Literacy started in 2014 out of appreciation for Parton and her organization, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Founded in 1995, Imagination Library is a book gifting program for children 0 to 5 of any income. Originally just in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Parton grew up, the program expanded in 2000 and has since delivered over 100 million books. The organization now sends over one million high-quality books a month to children.
And while the organization sends books via mail free of charge, not all families are able to get the books for a variety of reasons. However, that’s where 9 to 5 Literacy steps in.
Monica Keller, a co-founder of 9 to 5 Literacy, said that the group started out of a love for Parton, but it has morphed into something more.
“I saw a PBS story on Dolly and the Imagination Library and told some people about it and wanted to see what we could do here,” Keller said.
It was 2014 when Keller saw that, and she has since created a fast-growing nonprofit that lets children in the Austin area become a part of the Imagination Library program.
The group sponsors zip codes in Austin that are primarily low-income or are not close to a library and lets kids receive books through the Imagination Library program. They currently sponsor four zip codes and have found a way to branch out into more.
Shortly after being founded, the group wanted a way to raise funds for projects and to give away more books, so they decided to throw a birthday party.
On January 19, each year since they started, 9 to 5 Literacy has thrown a birthday celebration for Parton that raises money for sponsorships with the Imagination Library.
“We have had such amazing support since we started the birthday party,” Keller said. “So many musicians and people have donated their time to try and raise money for a good cause.”
Local musicians perform their favorite Dolly Parton songs with look-alike contests and more to entertain people.
“We really get a chance to help kids learn how to read with this,” Keller said. “And to top it off, it promotes kindness and positivity by people working together.”
The event is just one part of the organization that Keller started because of how important literacy is.
“I’m a mom, and I know how much a mother bonds with their child by reading to them,” she said. “Plus that excitement of a child getting a book each month in the mail is really something.”
9 to 5 Literacy is already planning their next Dolly Parton birthday bash to help their goal of adding another zip code each year.