Country star Dolly Parton brings her Imagination Library to Aberdeen

Country megastar Dolly Parton has struck a deal with Aberdeen City Council to provide free books for the city’s ‘looked after children’.

Dolly, one of the world’s biggest female singer-songwriters, named the Granite City as the next target for her global library initiative for under privileged youngsters.

Announcing the project yesterday, Dolly told the Press & Journal: “I am delighted to be working with Aberdeen City Council on a project which has already brought so much joy to millions of children all over the world. Being able to bring my Imagination Library programme to Aberdeen is particularly special to me however, as I have always felt a special affinity with Scotland. Much of my music has been inspired by Scotland so it's only right that we are now in a position to bring more joy into the lives of looked after children in Aberdeen.”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a free book-gifting charity for young children from birth to the age of five.

From next month every looked after child in Aberdeen enrolled in the global initiative will have the chance to receive a book in the post every month until their fifth birthday. Every book is personally addressed to each individual child and all titles in the Imagination Library are published by Penguin Random House and carefully selected by a panel of experts in early childhood literacy and reading.

Dolly Parton added: "When I started the Imagination Library in my hometown of Sevier in Tennessee I never dreamed of days like today. I have always felt at home in Scotland and now that connection has deepened with Aberdeen's decision to launch the Imagination Library."

Leader of Aberdeen City Council, Councillor Jenny Laing paid tribute to Dolly’s vision to introduce a lifelong love of learning to children all over the world.

Councillor Laing said: “Dolly is known all over world for her phenomenal work in the arts, on screen and as a businesswoman. But I believe her Imagination programme will be her lasting legacy as it has the power to transform millions of lives.”

Aberdeen City Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gayle Gorman revealed that Dolly had been inspired to work with the city after hearing of the local authority’s commitment to looked after children.

Mrs Gorman said: “Hundreds of children in Aberdeen will benefit from Dolly’s passion and generosity. We have worked tirelessly in recent months to bring the Imagination Programme to Aberdeen.

“We already have in place one of the most ambitious and aspirational programmes for looked after children in the country which includes a grant system to help them achieve their ambitions, an advocates scheme to ensure that they have a voice and can communicate to us to how we can best help them reach their full potential, and a ‘virtual head teacher’ project which allows us to monitor their progress by remote and tailor their academic programme to best suit their needs.

Looked after children are either accommodated by the local authority on a voluntary basis; subject to compulsory supervision orders; or subject to permanence orders. In practical terms, children may be looked after in different ways, including at home, in foster care, in kinship care, with prospective adopters, in residential placements and in secure accommodation.

Dolly, who described herself as being “dirt poor” in her early family life, was inspired to set up her Imagination Library as a tribute to her father, a smart and hard-working man who was unable to read or write. Dolly wants to guarantee access to books, inspire a lifelong love of reading and help children reach their full potential.

Since Dolly set up the first Imagination Library in her hometown of Tennessee in 1995 the Dollywood Foundation has sent over 70million free books to child worldwide, with more than 1.3million posted in the UK and counting.

Councillor Laing added: “Although Children’s Social Work has a significant role in the lives of our looked after children we all have a responsibility to ensure that our young people reach their full potential, and we are keen to promote our responsibilities as corporate parents.

“Many of us take reading for granted and forget how lucky we are to be able to read. To have the opportunity to share the joy of reading with our youngsters from the time they are born means we can encourage them to learn and enjoy reading and writing from an early age.”