Dolly Parton Reads Free Bedtime Stories to Kids: Watch Readings from Goodnight with Dolly

How­ev­er old you may be, you’re nev­er too old to have a chil­dren’s book read aloud to you by a paja­ma clad Dol­ly Par­ton.

So snug­gle up!

Every episode of Good­night with Dol­ly finds the coun­try music icon in bed, glam­orous­ly made up as ever, read­ing glass­es perched on her nose.

She intro­duces her­self not as Dol­ly Par­ton, but the Book Lady, an hon­orif­ic bestowed by the child ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Imag­i­na­tion Library, the non-prof­it she found­ed in 1995 to fos­ter children’s love of books and read­ing.

The selec­tions are all titles that Imag­i­na­tion Library par­tic­i­pants have received free in the mail, with the Book Lady’s com­pli­ments.

Once things get rolling, the cam­era shifts to the illus­tra­tions, with Dol­ly’s zesty nar­ra­tion as voice over.

She low­ers her voice to play Grand­pa in the late Floyd Cooper’s Max and the Tag-Along Moon and the freight train in the 90th anniver­sary edi­tion of Wat­ty Piper’s The Lit­tle Engine That Could.

If her dra­mat­ic recita­tions occa­sion­al­ly include a bun­gled prepo­si­tion, we can’t imag­ine authors tak­ing umbrage.

In addi­tion to the mil­lions of chil­dren who ben­e­fit from Imag­i­na­tion Library mem­ber­ship, authors and illus­tra­tors whose titles select­ed for inclu­sion reap incred­i­ble rewards in the form of increased vis­i­bil­i­ty, sales, sta­tus, and of course, the good feel­ing that comes from being part of such a wor­thy project.

And we sin­cere­ly hope even the prick­li­est gram­mar stick­lers won’t blow a gas­ket over the odd “ain’t” and region­alisms born of Dolly’s East Ten­nessee moun­tain roots. In addi­tion to com­ing from an authen­tic place, they’re deliv­ered with a lot of heart and zero affect.

Though a word of cau­tion to par­ents plan­ning to let Dol­ly take over tonight: the series may be billed as bed­time sto­ries, but Parton’s mis­chie­vous sense of humor is liable to have a non-soporif­ic effect.

“Are you still awake?” she crows direct­ly into the cam­era after There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bot­tom of the Lake, author-illus­tra­tor Loren Long’s crowd pleas­ing com­ic spin on the cumu­la­tive camp song sta­ple. “I want to throw you in a lake if you don’t get in bed!”

The Book Lady is also fond of shar­ing a high ener­gy snip­pet of what­ev­er song the evening’s tale has put her in mind of.

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Mar­ket Street, with award win­ning illus­tra­tions by Chris­t­ian Robin­son, inspires a few lines from Poor Folks Town, from 1972.

Come on down

Have a look around

Rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

We got no mon­ey but we’re rich in love

That’s one thing that we’ve got a‑plenty of

So come on down have a look around

At rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

(“If that won’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will,” she teas­es, after.)

After Dol­ly bids her lis­ten­ers good­night, the book’s author or illus­tra­tor is usu­al­ly giv­en a chance to have a word with the par­ents or care­givers, to stress how read­ing aloud deep­ens famil­ial bonds and share child­hood mem­o­ries of being read to.

De la Peña, whose book fea­tures a grand­moth­er point­ing out the sort of non-mon­e­tary rich­es Dol­ly’s moth­er also val­ued, takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank the self-effac­ing star’s efforts to “reach work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties” — pre­sum­ably through rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as well as books intend­ed to cul­ti­vate a life­long love of read­ing.

Enjoy a playlist of Good­night with Dol­ly episodes here.

Learn more about the Imag­i­na­tion Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Dol­ly Parton’s Imag­i­na­tion Library Has Giv­en Away 186 Mil­lion Free Books to Kids, Boost­ing Lit­er­a­cy World­wide

Dol­ly Parton’s “Jolene” Slowed Down to 33RPM Sounds Great and Takes on New, Unex­pect­ed Mean­ings

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


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