How Famous People are Shining a Spotlight on Reading

What do you have in common with celebrities like Tom Cruise, Dolly Parton, Hellen Mirren, and Taylor Swift?

You know that reading and writing skills are essential tools without which our children cannot grow into the superstars of the future. Without literacy, a child will never write the screenplay that will launch their career in Hollywood, or the legislation that will change our nation for the better. Unable to read and write recipes, a kid will miss the chance to become a world renown chef.

Knowing that it takes universal literacy to maximize the potential of our children and those in our larger communities, this week, Read Notebooks honors four of the many famous personalities that are championing childhood literacy, in the United States and abroad, and invites you to join us in this important mission.


1. Dolly Parton

As one of the most prolific songwriters in American music, having written over 3,000 songs according to her 2009 interview with Larry King, Parton has also become one of the leading supporters of early childhood literacy. Her literacy program, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a part of the Dollywood Foundation, mails one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. Currently over 1600 local communities provide the Imagination Library to almost 700,000 children each and every month across the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia. The program distributes more than 8.3 million free books to children annually.


2. Hellen Mirren

Beyond the stage and screen Mirren has become an international philanthropist through her support of organizations such as Oxfam International, Kids Company, Meals On Wheels, Prince’s Trust, and more. She is also prolific supporter of literacy causes around the world. Mirren has worked with are Book Aid International, an NGO which provides over half a million books each year to libraries in schools, hospitals, refugee camps, prisons, and libraries in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Palestine. She also supports National Literacy Trust,a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK through community literacy projects in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, campaigning and advocating literacy as a priority for politicians and parents, and by providing support and resources to schools.


3. Tom Cruise

Cruise struggled well into adulthood with dyslexia, a learning disability characterized by trouble reading despite a normal intelligence, and was, in his own words, “a functional illiterate” when he graduated from high school in 1980. Even as his career took off with the success of Risky Business, Cruise felt limited by his illiteracy. He said his mindset at the time, “I wanted to produce movies. I wanted to know more about my craft. I wanted to work with writers. I had stories I wanted to tell…I thought to myself, ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’"

After overcoming dyslexia, Cruise became a founding Board Member for the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project, a community based non-profit organization dedicated to providing free ongoing one-on-one tutoring and mentoring for children, youth, and their families, as well as instruction, training and internships for parents and volunteer tutors, and in 2003, received the Excellence in Mentoring Award from the National Mentoring Partnership for his work with the organization.


4. Taylor Swift

Swift is an inspiration to young people everywhere, not just as a singer-songwriter but as a philanthropist and activist. In 2012, Michelle Obama presented Swift with The Big Help Award for her "dedication to helping others" and "inspiring others through action.” Also that year, Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights presented Swift with the Ripple of Hope Award because of her "dedication to advocacy at such a young age.

It may not be a coincidence that Taylor Swift was born in the town of Reading, Pennsylvania, as children’s literacy has been a focus of Swift’s charity work. She has donated tens of thousands of books to public schools and libraries around the country, co-chaired the National Education Association's Read Across America campaign, worked extensively with Scholastic Books on educational webcasts and initiatives such as Reach Out And Read, supported the American Library Association’s READ project with the poster pictured above, and in 2014 donated all proceeds from her song “Welcome To New York” to New York City Pubic Schools.

These celebrities, and many more, are doing their part to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn how to read, write, and express themselves. We invite you to join us in the cause.


There are many ways you can support Read Notebooks. First, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and share Read Notebooks with your family and friends. You can also join us at one of our upcoming Read Ups, where we read aloud to children and deliver the donated books. If you are interested in joining a future Read Up, please email

Justin Reyes
Justin Reyes