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Readers, Writers, and Gruffalos: Looking Back at the Imagination Library Story Time Series at the Library of Congress

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Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden and Dolly Parton in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress

We couldn’t believe our eyes: The legendary singer, songwriter, and philanthropist Dolly Parton was in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden—and she brought books with her.

This Library of Congress Living Legend was there last February to mark a major milestone. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which mails free books to children from birth to age 5 in participating communities across the United States and many other countries, had given away 100 million books. To celebrate this tremendous gift to children around the world, the Library and the Imagination Library announced a reading program for young readers at the Library. (You can watch the presentation here.)

From March through August of 2018, on the last Friday of each month, there was a Story Time for young readers at the Library featuring a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, often read by the author. These programs were livestreamed on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube channel,” and they’re all available for anyone to watch at any time.

We’ve been looking back at these special Story Times and remembering some of the highlights.

Our favorite moments featured Imagination Library authors who visited the Library of Congress to read their books aloud to the Story Time audience. Author Laura Murray jumped into the Story Time spirit, joining in the song that preceded her reading of The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck, and then had the young audience happily shouting along with a call-and-response. “Gingerbread….” “MAN!”  Rachel Isadora, who came to present her books I Just Want to Say Good Night and I Hear a Pickle, was so warm and welcoming that two very young readers clambered onto the stage and found their way into her lap.

It would be difficult to beat the double whammy of having two Imagination Library authors on stage for the same Story Time. On the eve of the 2018 National Book Festival, Matt de la Peña and Danica McKellar both came ready to read. Matt de la Peña led the audience through his book Last Stop on Market Street and Danica McKellar had readers counting along with her as she read her book Goodnight, Numbers.

We also enjoyed the chance to see our Library of Congress colleagues take to the stage to bring Imagination Library books to life for young learners. Melissa Wertheimer of the Library’s Music Division donned an engineer’s cap and used her flute and triangle to keep the audience chuffing along with The Little Engine That Could.  The American Folklife Center’s Thea Austen was joined onstage by a (stuffed) baby llama for Llama Llama Red Pajama and Llama Llama and the Bully Goat. And a purple-hatted wizard bearing a resemblance to Steve Winick of the American Folklife Center held the young learners rapt as he recited a poem, read The Gruffalo, and joined Story Time Leader Caroline Quandt in a singalong.

In her introduction to these special Story Times, Dr. Hayden said, “Ms. Parton’s work through her Imagination Library is awe-inspiring!” If you visit—or re-visit—these Story Times, we think you’ll agree.

Once you’ve enjoyed this special Story Time series, browse through our other videos of Library of Congress author events, and explore all the Library of Congress has to offer for young readers.


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