Country and western star Dolly Parton has hit the trail in Scotland with a books programme for looked-after children that will give them a free book every month up to the age of five.
Parton, known for hits such as 9 to 5 and Jolene, is a long-standing advocate of early literacy, having launched the Imagination Library charity in her native Sevier County, Tennessee, in 1995. The scheme, which sees free books posted to every pre-school child, has spread to children in 1,300 communities around the world.
The Scottish model, a partnership between Parton's company, the Dollywood Foundation, Scottish Book Trust and the Scottish Government, will give each of Scotland's 3,341 looked-after children under five the chance to create their own library of up to 60 books. It is the first version of the scheme to run on a national basis, purely for looked-after children.
Parton, who has described her own background as "dirt poor", says: "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 the nation's looked- after children."
The initiative is part of the Scottish Government's Play Talk Read campaign, which encourages parents and carers to read with their children. Scottish Book Trust's chief executive, Marc Lambert, says it will complement and deepen the impact of his organisation's book-gifting programme, Bookbug.
"Literacy, reading and, above all, access to quality books are some of the key building blocks in the early years that help lead to fulfilling and productive lives," he says.
The books for the Imagination Library programme will be selected by an independent committee of experts in the field of childhood development and literacy.