CHICAGO (WATE) — East Tennessee treasure and international icon Dolly Parton has added yet another award to her name, only this one is related to her work with bringing a love of reading to young children, which is why she’s earned the 2022 Friend of Education from the National Education Association.

“What a special honor,” Parton said in a video message to the NEA educators at the annual Representative Assembly. “Now, I know how hard each of you work to help every student succeed, and I’m working to do my part as well.”

A video message from Parton giving thanks for the honor was shared Tuesday at the National Education Association Representative Assembly, which is happening in Chicago.

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization or labor union that boasts three million members who work at every level of education from pre-school to university graduate programs. Each summer, NEA educator members gather to help set a policy for the NEA and to advance the interests of public education, according to the NEA website.

Parton shared that her Dollywood Foundation is offering college scholarships to East Tennessee high school students, as well as Dollywood covering college tuition and expenses for employees. She also said she is most proud of her Imagination Library for reaching a new milestone in gifting more than 2 million books each month to young children.

“Now I created the Imagination Library over 26 years ago in honor of my dad, who never had the opportunity to learn to read and write,” Parton said. “And he lived long enough to see the program really growing and he told me that he was proud of me for that, than just about anything I’d ever done.”

Parton said she accepted the Friend of Education award on behalf of the Imagination Library and its partners. She also closed out her message with a final note from her song, “I Will Always Love You.”

The Tennessee affiliate of the National Education Association, the Tennessee Education Association, is located in Nashville.